Have a Heart? Donate it!
I’m trying to write a story about organ donation and it’s impossible. I know a thousand horrible, engrossing stories from working at an OPO. I could write about a family whose three month old baby died of SIDS, about the hostile doctor who didn’t want to pronounce brain death and about the family on the other end—the family with a baby who needed a heart transplant in the next twenty four hours or would likely die. What else? The twenty year old at a football game who kept ingesting something which he thought was innocuous but what actually contains cyanide. If you were to have maybe ten of these things, you would be fine, but he ate them by the handfuls and died. A teenage who accidentally impaled himself on a sharp instrument trying to stimulate himself by sticking it where it shouldn’t have gone. Dozens of pedestrians and bicyclists who weren’t paying attention or driver’s who were talking on their cell phones and didn’t even see it coming. Drug overdoses, suicides, drive by shootings, drownings—you only have a one percent chance of dying from brain death but working at this place made it seem as though it were as ordinary as catching a cold. But it’s not something you can write about—at least not in fiction. I could probably write an essay, but I never actually went into the O.R. to see a donation. I did go out on a case once—an Hispanic family whose mother was brain death. I saw her laying on the hospital bed, looking like an ordinary sleeping person except for the ventilator that keeps the oxygen going in and out and the machine that keeps the heart pumping since the brain can no longer tell the body what to do.