The Miracle Organ

hospital bed - photo by Zoshua Colah on Unsplash

During a recent holiday, I visited a man who received a new organ from a donor. Childhood illnesses had ravaged his body. These complications qualified him for organ donation, but he was losing hope after waiting for two years. Then out of seemingly nowhere, the hospital told him an organ was available. He quickly changed vacation plans. Instead of heading to the beach with his family, he rushed to the hospital.

Now he sat on the edge of his bed, grateful, but spiritually confused. The donor was a young woman. He contemplated how a piece of a complete stranger now lived on in his body, while other parts of her flourished in other recipients. Out of curiosity, and using the few facts he had, such as her general geographic area and a bit more specificity than I’m including here about her age and family circumstances, he did an online search and found a news item: suicide. Of course, he had no way to know if that was really her, but soon his imagination spun freely, telling him a story of how she took her own life and how her shocked parents so generously made the decision to donate her organs, despite their grief. But how could he know for certain? The donor might not even have been the same person. Or she might not have had living parents. His facts could be baseless. Nevertheless, lively fantasies would not let him rest.

After he received Holy Communion, I suggested we pray together for the donor, her family, and the doctors. We offered thanksgiving for their profound generosity and forethought. We gave additional thanks for those who harvested the organs, transported them safely, contacted the patient, and performed the successful operation. At a minimum this would have been five people, but it was probably closer to 15. Although something went tragically wrong for an unknown family, after that a whole chain of things had to go perfectly right for him to be sitting in that hospital room with me, praising God for his good outcome.

He wanted to send a personal thank you to the family, but he wasn’t sure. What if they didn’t want to hear from him? What if it made them angry or sad? I suggested that he go ahead and write that letter and give it to the organ donation team. They would know from long experience how to handle it. Maybe the family would indeed want to know how their daughter lived on in others. Or maybe they weren’t ready now, but they might be at some point in the future. Maybe some members of the family would choose to read it, and not others. We cannot predict how others will respond to our overtures. Our only responsibility is to show gratitude with confidence and then pray that God will prepare the hearts of others to receive those words should they choose to do so.

Photo by Zoshua Colah on Unsplash.

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Giacinta is a pseudonym for a volunteer in a Jesuit-affiliated hospital, who brings Holy Communion to patients. By law she cannot reveal private patient information, so she changes key facts to make these true stories unrecognizable.



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