Also see: Other articles on tissue/organ donation: April is Donate Life Month | Doug Zimmerman's Gift of Life | The Ultimate in Recycling - Organ Donation | Donor family gathering | Real people helped by Doug's gift | Where in the world is Doug Zimmerman?
Bet, Larry and Joan Zimmerman at the flag raising ceremony at Hartford Hospital, hours after Doug passed away. A flag is flown for two days to let people know of the donor's gift. Sadly, thousands of people suffer or die each year while waiting for a donor match that never comes.
Photo courtesy of Hartford Hospital
Robert Test's poem (below) is so beautiful. It has always sent chills up my spine, and inspired me to sign up for organ donation. I had it printed on the back of the remembrance cards provided by the Gilman Funeral Home at the wake and memorial service. My hope was that people would consider signing up as organ donors, and carry the card in the wallet, as I have carried it in my own wallet for many years. I wrote an article (with Doug's help) about Organ Donation after I heard about a friend who donated a kidney to another.
Doug was also a regular blood donor. He earned "Active Hero" status, and had donated more than 65 units of blood during his lifetime.
I am glad Doug was an organ and tissue donor. I am glad that we talked about it before he left. Every new person who knew Doug who signs up for organ donation now is carrying on Doug's legacy. As Doug would say, "It's the gift that keeps on giving."
They were not able to use his heart (or his liver, which is probably a good thing) because it stopped beating out in the park when he collapsed. However, they successfully harvested many tendons, muscles (he had a lot of those!), bone (I was worried about the quality of his knee caps, but LifeChoice said they can use them to make screws to knit bones together), as well as skin, cornea and sclera. This is good news. There is not much of that around here lately.
This process and decision was not hard for me. At that point, his body was just a shell. Doug's parents were generous enough to support our choices. Plus the LifeChoice point of contact, Sheila Murphy, was incredibly sensitive, kind, informative and patient.
The only thing I asked her was that they not use any of his parts for cosmetic surgery for someone who just wants to look like a Barbie Doll. I would much rather see it used to help people who have no such choices - such as all the brave men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The knowledge that his gift will help others live a fuller life is one of the only things that gives me comfort right now.
To Remember Me
At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my "deathbed." Call it my "bed of life," and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my blood to the teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.
Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.
Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.
To learn more and register today, visit www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org or OrganDonor.gov. LifeChoice Donor Services is the non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization serving six counties in Connecticut and three counties in Massachusetts. LifeChoice is dedicated to fostering community and professional support of organ and tissue donation, providing compassionate care to families, and saving and improving lives. For more information, please visit www.lifechoiceopo.org. Here is a poem they sent to our family:
My Final Gift
It is now time for me to move on
Into the dusk, but also the dawn.
I will remain as the morning comes
As I've left behind a gift for someone.
So another may walk, may talk, may see
Where their life was locked, I offered a key.
I am a donor to someone in need
My final gift, my final deed.
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