To The Mother Of My Son's Organ Donor

by Kate Harris
Metinkiyak / iStock

When my son, let’s call him Mr. Snuggles (he’s the snuggliest little love bug you’ll ever know), was 7 weeks old, he suffered several episodes of acute cardiac arrest before ending up on life support, and, eventually, a Berlin Heart pump.

We were told his heart would never function properly on its own again. He needed a transplant. He is our first child, so while navigating the maze of hormones and sleeplessness that is new motherhood, I was then faced with the fact that I might lose this brand new infant into which I had poured my very being. And no one knew why.

I spent the next few months drowning in a sea of sorrow. Waves of grief crashed over me, leaving me sputtering, desperately trying to catch my breath before the next one came roaring down. They were relentless. Incessant. Merciless.

Yet through it all, Mr. Snuggles was a complete champion. They said his kidneys wouldn’t function properly for months — he promptly peed on several nurses. They said his lungs were full of fluid, but within days he was breathing over his ventilator and breathing tube. Nothing slowed him down, not even adult doses of sedatives.

According to science and statistics, he should not have made it. But instead, he made small victories every day. I think that’s what made his setbacks so difficult to endure. As soon as we allowed ourselves to hope again, an infection would crop up, or he would become fluid overloaded and need yet another procedure. Our moment of sun, our hour of calm, would abruptly end and we would be left gasping for air again.

Mr. Snuggles never gave up, and I can’t say that I did either. But I will say that it’s exceptionally difficult to focus on the light when the darkness is omnipresent and ever-permeating. I could feel myself drifting away from reality. Mr. Snuggles was holding steady on his front line, but I was retreating.

Just when I was about to lose myself, a life ring appeared. I got the phone call that they had found a donor for my Mr. Snuggles. That life ring was attached to a rope, and at the end of that rope was a nameless, faceless hand, pulling me out of the deepest crevice of the darkest caverns of the ninth circle of Hell.

That hand was yours. While drowning in your own grief, you reached out and saved me from mine.

When I got that call, I wept inconsolably. I knew the price with which my happiness must come. While the relief that Mr. Snuggles would be saved washed over me, it was overshadowed by the gut-wrenching knowledge that a perfectly sweet, innocent baby — just like my own — had been taken too soon.

You saved me from a soul-crushing sorrow no one should ever have to endure. And yet you were, and are still, suffering that sorrow. You are bearing that burden for me. You will never hear your baby’s laughter. You will never again feel their warmth. I cannot begin to express to you what pain I feel for you. I wish I could grieve with you. I wish I could hug you and tell you the pain will lessen. But I know that it won’t. Mine hasn’t, and I still have my baby.

I wish there was something, anything, I could do to help. I think of you a thousand times a day. With every smile, every “first,” every beat of his perfect new heart, I think of you. And every time I think of you, I am overcome with guilt. My happiness is your agony. My joy is your heartbreak. I cry for you, I pray for you, and I love for you.

But the truth is that I may never know you. For all I know, you were taken with your infant. My only hope is that if by some miracle this letter does find you, it brings you peace and comfort in knowing that your angel is cherished beyond measure. All of Mr. Snuggles’ firsts, our firsts, are your firsts. Please know that whatever we do for and with him, we do in honor of your sweet angel.

I know that to say “thank you” is far from enough, but it is all I can do. From the depths of my soul, and with all that I am, I thank you. You saved us both.