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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life shared through death

Earlier this month I made my once-every-five-years trip to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver's license. I had lucked out because there was no one else in line and I moved quickly through the process. Vision? Check. Vital stats? Check. Address? Check. Organ donation? Sure.

It happened that quickly. I was in and out in under five minutes, surely some kind of record. I didn't stop to give one minute of thought to my decision to continue to be an organ donor.

Not until my friend, Chris, gave me a copy of Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly's column, "Getting a Second Wind."

As I unfolded the clipping back at home, Ryan stood reading over my shoulder. I gasped aloud when I read that a 14-year-old soccer goalie shot herself in the head after being on Paxil for 10 days. I'm not going to curse the drug, because I have loved ones who have benefited from its use. But Korrine Shroyer was in eighth grade, she was feeling a little sad and so a therapist recommended the drug.

Reilly's column, however, is really about how her parents coped with such profound sorrow.

Kevin, an investigator in the public defender's office, and his wife, Kristie, a hairstylist, were able to think one clear and brave and terrifying thought during the six days Korinne survived after the shooting. They decided to send out her organs like gifts.

Her green eyes would go in one direction, her glad heart another, her kidneys still another. Her liver and her pancreas went somewhere else, and her two good lungs -- the ones that played the saxophone -- went to a Gainesville, Ga., man named Len Geiger, who was so close to dying that he was practically pricing caskets.

At age 48 Geiger had genetic emphysema. Korrine's strong young lungs saved his life. Eventually Geiger met her parents.

Hours later the group was parting when Kristie said, "Len? Can I ask you a favor?" She walked over and stood before him.

"Anything," Geiger said.

"Can I put my hands on your chest for just a second?"

And she stood there, crying, as she felt her dead daughter breathe.

As tears ran down my face I felt my son's strong arm wrap around my shoulder and I shuddered at the thought of losing him, his laughter, his confidence, his sheer physical presence. Would I have such courage?

The story ends fairly well. Geiger and Korrine's dad took up running together. Eventually Geiger met and married a woman. They had a baby girl. Her name? Ava Corrine.

1 comment:

Michelle O'Neil said...

Good God.

They throw these drugs at kids willy nilly. Anyone can prescribe them.

Not saying some don't need them but there is a horrible abuse of the system. Another child snuffed out, thank you Big Pharma.

I'd rather have a live kid than one living on in ten other people.