On Friday, July 4, 2003, my son Kyle, decided he would visit family and friends at Lake Eufaula for the Fourth of July celebrations. This was something he enjoyed doing every year. The weekend would consist of fireworks, playing a round or two of golf, staying up late talking, playing Capture the Flag with the little ones, volleyball, fishing, and riding Sea-Doos. A weekend full of the promise of adventure. He was 17.
That evening around 7 p.m., Kyle called to tell me of a funny thing that happened on his drive to Eufaula. We laughed, talked about what he wanted to do when he got there
At the end of our conversation, I had a sense of urgency and my heart began to beat a little faster. "Kyle, please be careful. I need you in my life. I love you son."
"I love you too mom. I'll be careful." That was the last time I spoke with my son. At approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, July 6, 2003, my phone rang. "Ma'am, this is a nurse at St. John's Hospital in Tulsa. Your son has been in a car accident."
My parents drove me the long two hour trip from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. I walked into the ICU unit and saw my son lying there motionless with tubes, bandages and bruising all over him. I touched his right hand. It was ice cold. The evening was long waiting on a positive prognosis. That prognosis never came. At 7:15 a.m., July 7, 2003, the doctor pulled me aside telling me in medical detail the swelling of the brain, hemorrhage, the broken pelvis, the internal bleeding, the brain stem failing at midnight. I was not registering any of it. All I saw was a man talking, but I heard nothing, until "We need your decision on whether to take your son off life support. There is no brain activity."
How does a mother answer this question? "Let him go." I walked into his room to say my final goodbyes. The machine was keeping his heart beating. I laid my head on his chest. Thump, thump, thump. I could feel and hear his heart pounding. They lead me out of the room and turned off the machines.
A very kind man from LifeShare approached me about organ donation. I recalled Kyle mentioning that if anything happened to him, he would want to donate his organs. Kyle was able to save three people's lives through organ donation: liver and both kidneys.
In the months that followed I came to the realization that I would have no new memories of my son. I would have to rely on the past. Then a letter arrived from a lady named Barbara. Such perfect timing. Many emotions surfaced as I read the words of a complete stranger. But the final emotions that settled were that of love and gratitude to a courageous woman I had never met.
About a month before I received this letter, I was invited to attend a high school basketball game that was in honor of my son. I was approached by a woman that was the grandmother to one of the players. She asked me if I had heard from any of the organ recipients, to which my reply was no. She knew in her heart it had to be one of her dear friends. As it turned out, this sweet grandmother was right.
Barbara and I eventually met at a picnic sponsored by LifeShare. At the picnic I waited, looking around for a woman that I anxiously wanted to get to know. As I saw her walking toward me, I knew in an instant who she was. We both smiled as we approached one another. There in the middle of the park, two strangers - a mother who had lost her son and a woman who had promise of a new life - hugged, cried, laughed and rejoiced. She told me her story of struggles through the years with failure of both her kidneys. With tears streaming down her face, she thanked me over and over. Barbara received word of her new kidney just a few days before her birthday.
We have kept in touch over the years. One Christmas I received a wonderful present from her. An ultrasound picture of Kyle's kidney with typed words underneath,"Looking good Kyle."
Because of organ donation, I made a lifelong friend, and . . . I received a new memory of my son.