The Donor

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I could hear Amy in the bathroom. I jumped out of bed and hurried over to her as fast as I could. She was hurled over the loo, throwing up. I bundled her hair out of the way, my poor baby. It must have been something she ate. She was crying. I helped her wash her face and took her back to bed.



The bathroom light woke me up. Tom wasn’t next to me. We met each other in the hallway. He told me Amy was still not feeling well and still throwing up. I walked down the stair and opened the medicine cabinet. I ran back upstairs with packages of over the counter medication, confident they will make whatever she had go away.



It didn’t. Lucy and Peter sat at the breakfast table and played games on Tom’s Ipad, oblivious to what was going on. Tom dropped them off and headed to work. I kept Amy at home. I wanted to make sure that she was fine before I took her back to school. No point in her transferring whatever bug this was to the other kids.


Looking back to the events that occurred only one week ago, I was certain that it was only a ‘bug’. If only I had reacted sooner. That night I brought her into the emergency room. The doctor on duty took one look at her and called in the pediatrician.


“Excuse me, doctor?” I said in a whisper.
“Will my Amy be alright”? a sound of panic overwhelming my voice.
He looked at me, I could see it in his eyes, he was worried. He didn’t have an answer and here I was asking him the one question he didn’t have the answer to.

“We need to wait for doctor Macy and then run some tests. At this stage, I’m afraid I am unable to make a diagnosis”.

And that was the end of our discussion. I returned to my seat. Amy was pale, clutching the plastic bucket to her chest like it was a life-line. I took my phone out of my purse and dialed Tom’s number. He was still at the office. He answered on the third ring.

“Tom, you need to come down to the hospital, it’s Amy”

There was silence on the other end. I checked the screen of my phone to make sure that the call didn’t disconnect but the timer was still going.

I heard Tom sigh.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can” he said and disconnected the call.

I couldn’t understand it. I felt confused and hurt. We could deal with that later. Right now, I needed to focus on Amy. Doctor Macy and Tom arrived at the hospital together. She was a beautiful woman. Tall, blonde and looked as if she belonged in an issue of Vogue rather than in a white coat in a hospital.

After what felt like hours of tests, needles and paperwork she told us to leave Amy for observation and to go get some rest. Lucy and Peter was home with Linda our neighbor and suddenly I had the urge to get to them as soon as I possibly could.

I didn’t speak to Tom much. He went into his study as soon as we got home. It was just after 1am so I decided to take a shower and head to bed. I needed to get some sleep, to be there for Amy later that morning.

The shrieking of the telephone on my bedside table woke me up. An unfamiliar number flashed on my screen. I answered in an I-just-woke-up-voice, even though I was trying my best to hide it.

“Mrs Bains, this is doctor Macy. We received the results back from the laboratory. I am going to need you and Mr Bains to come see me as soon as possible”

My stomach sank to my feet. I’ve seen this happen in movies. They usually don’t give you bad news over the phone. This is bad.

“I will… I mean, we will be there in an hour, thank you doctor”.

I sat in silence, a million thoughts rushed through my head. Was Amy going to be alright, what was wrong with her? Is it something they can cure? When can she come home?

Doctor Macy’s office was as elegant and gorgeous as she was. Tom seemed nervous. I was glad that he finally seemed as if though he cared. Maybe he did, maybe he just didn’t know how to deal with Amy being in hospital. Doctor Macy sat opposite us, browsing through Amy’s file and then looked up.

“Mr and Mrs Bains, this is never an easy conversation to have”

What does that mean? I knew this was going to be bad news. I prepared myself as well as I could.

“Amy is suffering from cardiomyopathy. This means that her heart muscle is not functioning the way it is supposed to, the way a normal child’s heart would function. The muscle does not pump enough blood to the body, something that could end up being fatal”.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew something was wrong with my baby but I never in a million years expected this. Tom’s voice pulled me back to reality.

“What are our options? Surely there must be something you can do for her?”

Doctor Macy nodded. Thank God.

“There is. Unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Bains, this is a long road ahead of you. We need to get Amy a heart transplant as soon as possible. I am going to refer you to the transplant center just down the road from us. They have amazing surgeons, cardiologists and transplant coordinators that will be able to assist you and answer all your questions”.

Tom looked at me, the look in his eyes reassured me that everything is going to be alright.


I can’t imagine any parent going through the emotional strain we have gone through in the last two weeks. I am emotionally and physically drained. Every day I wake up not knowing if I’ll have the energy to make it through another round of tests, biopsy’s, EKG’s not even to mention the mountains and mountains of paperwork. In the end this will all be worth it.

Doctor Ramsay, the cardiologist working with Amy has called me into his office. Tom was unable to make the meeting, something about a business meeting he couldn’t get out of. I was too tired to fight with him.

“Mrs Bains, I have some good news”

I smiled, something I haven’t done in what felt like ages.

“We found a donor for Amy”.

Doctor Ramsay was right. This was indeed good news. I was overwhelmed and started crying. It felt good to cry. It felt good to let all those bottled-up emotions run free.

“Walk with me, we can go see him” doctor Ramsay said and motioned for me to follow him.

He opened the door to a single room. There were machines everywhere. Monitor’s, tubes and Iv stands. And then I saw him. My eyes filled up with tears. I went over to him. I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t see anyone else in the room. I took his hand in mine. It was cold. He didn’t move. I cried. Before me was a beautiful young man, not a day older than sixteen. He looked peaceful. I blinked and looked up, staring into the faces of his parents.

His mother came to me and hugged me and held me. We both cried. Her son was being a donor for my daughter? How could this be?

As if reading my mind, she let me go.

“This is Michael. He is our teenage boy and shot himself in our barn. He was a victim of cyber bullying. We only found out after… There is nothing more the doctors can do for him.  We have lost our baby boy and he wants to help your daughter”.

A confused look crept across my face. Did he know Amy? How?

“Michael left a final note asking that we donate his organs” his father said in a raspy voice.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon with Michael and his parents. I felt relieved and extremely overwhelmed all at the same time. How cruel is this life that one had to die for another to live? I felt guilty. I learned a lot about Michael that day. I learned that he loved horses, just as much as Amy does. He had a fear of heights and he volunteered at the old age home just a few blocks away. I learned that he had a passion for music, and taught himself how to play the piano. I learned that he was a good boy with straight A’s and that his biggest dream was to be on Broadway.

This was a spectacular young man who accomplished so much in his short life. I wanted to pay tribute to him and so I promised him and his parents that I would tell Amy all about Michael and we would stay in touch with them and let them know how Amy is doing with Michael’s heart.


It was well after 9pm when I got home. I felt guilty for being at the hospital all day and not spending time with Tom or the other children. I could see the light of his study still on and slowly pushed open the door, to tell him about the exciting news.

My heart stopped beating. I didn’t know how to react or what to do.

“Doctor Macy?” I shouted, shock and anger in my voice.

“Cathy, I can explain” I heard Tom say as I rushed out of the study and got into my car.

Tom was cheating on me with our pediatrician? Is that why he was always working late? Is that why they both showed up at the hospital at the same time? None of this made sense. How could he do this to us? How could he do this to Amy?


“Without the organ donor, there is no story, no hope, no transplant. But when there is an organ donor, life springs from death, sorrow turns to hope and a terrible loss becomes a gift” – UNOS

I wanted to be strong for Amy, for Michael and for his parents. We all said our final goodbyes to Michael and then headed out for his parents to say a special last goodbye. They walked with me to the theater where we said “See you soon” to Amy. She was the bravest ten-year-old I knew and was about to have a heart surgery. I waved to her, my brave little soul until the doors closed behind them.

It has been ten years since my baby girl had a heart transplant. She still loves horses, she volunteers at the old age home just a few blocks from where we live, she loves music and is taking piano classes. She signed up for acting classes and visits Michael’s grave at least once a week.

Tom is not a part of my life anymore. Amy visits him every second weekend. My heart is still healing. It will take a while but I am optimistic. Amy made a promise to Michael that she will take his heart to Broadway. Her first audition is in a few weeks and she has been practicing and rehearsing like there’s no tomorrow. I am so proud of my brave little soul.

Know that I am grateful

for the life you gave to me.

May my life give you light

wherever you may be.

And may my life bring comfort

from the pain that hurts you so:

we are strangers now a family,

wherever we may go.

And may the life that lives in me

shine the light so all can see

that life goes on ironically

when we choose to donate life,

so hope will live eternally.


Copyright Daniel Mark Extrom 2009-2012. All rights reserved.

Donate Life!

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