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Life goes on, thanks to donors

Having worked at Lutheran Hospital the past 18 years, I have experienced many tragic stories. Oftentimes those stories end with families giving the ultimate gift – the gift of life to those in need. My family, too, was one of those families.

On Christmas morning 1982, my life changed forever. My mother, Janet Rosen, was 39 years old with three young children; I was 10 and my twin brothers were 13. She worked as a nurse at a family practice clinic in North Manchester. She was energetic and full of life. Long before that morning, I remember mom telling me she wanted to donate her organs. Life has a way of preparing us for unforeseen things. While this was not a typical conversation a parent has with a young child, I later understood its significance.

My brothers and I were busy playing with our new games when mom decided it was time to put the Christmas decorations away. Yes, that’s right, on Christmas morning. There were pull-down stairs to the attic in our garage where the decorations were stored. Dad had just handed mom the manger scene box when he turned to see her falling from the stairs onto the concrete floor. She was still conscious but not talking while I held her head and dad called the local emergency room. One of the doctors mom worked for was on duty, so dad and a neighbor drove her to the hospital. After being evaluated, mom was quickly transported to a Fort Wayne hospital. We soon found out that she had a ruptured aneurysm and would not survive this massive head bleed.

Two days later, I entered mom’s hospital room. She was lying there peacefully, and the only sound was the ventilator giving her each breath she took. She was unresponsive to us. The doctors informed us that she was “brain dead.” The decision was made that she would be an organ donor. Without hesitation, the decision was made because mom had discussed her intentions with us. We wanted to honor her wish. She saved two people’s lives with her kidneys.

The donation process has changed and advanced drastically since 1982, but the one thing that remains unchanged is the decision-making process.

I urge everyone to have this discussion with your loved ones. When faced with a tragic situation, it is difficult to make any decisions. If this conversation has already taken place, as it did for us, it makes that decision to give back life much easier. Please register to become a tissue and organ donor at; then tell your loved ones your intentions.

Jama Fry is nurse manager of the medical-surgical intensive care unit at Lutheran Hospital. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.