There are moments in life that define you. These moments can affirm decisions that you made a previous point in your life and sometimes they can bring a bit of lightness to the dark. I had such a moment on Friday, September 25 around 8:30 in the morning.
It actually started around 7:00 am with a frantic phone call from my ex husband, David (Peyton’s dad). He had tears in his voice and could barely get the words out. He’d just spoken to the mother of the recipient of one of Peyton’s corneas. He was overwhelmed. I was shell-shocked. After he told me about the call, he said the mom wanted to talk to me too and he had shared my number with her.
I couldn’t wait and found Leslie on Facebook (good ol’ Facebook – makes stalking easy). I sent her a short note explaining who I was and sent her my phone number. She responded right away and called me shortly after.
When the phone rang, I held my breath. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that we would connect as mothers. I could immediately hear the kindness and compassion in her voice, almost as if she was talking on eggshells, afraid of what my reaction might be. I hope she could tell how welcomed her call was. You see, its been almost a year since Peyton gave his gifts and she is the first recipient family who has contacted us. I’ve yearned for such a connection, for a small glimmer that Peyton is still out there taking care of people.
We talked for a while and she told me about her daughter, Carmel, who was born with eye problems that led to loss of vision and drooping on one side. She told me that, as it got worse, Carmie started to wear her hair down and over that eye so people wouldn’t stare or make fun of her. She told me that she watched as some of the sparkle left from her daughter’s eye each time she was teased. My heart broke for this little girl, only 7 years old and facing hurdles larger than most of us will ever imagine. Not just because she has physical challenges to overcome, but because she had to endure teasing and being made fun of because she was different. All I could think of was my Peyton and how he had lived with the same thing.
Through our conversation I learned that, while the transplant of Peyton’s cornea did “take”, it gave them hope to keep looking for solutions. It took 2 more tries but about 7 weeks ago Carmie had her 3rd transplant and seems to be doing really well. Before the transplant, Mom and daughter were resigned to Carmie being blind in one eye. Now, this sweet little girl is looking forward to a world she can actually see it. And Peyton played a part in making that possible. He was the first step.
Leslie told me about the frequent doctor’s visits that are about a 3 hour drive from their home. They have to go up the night before to spend the night before the early morning appointments. Leslie is a single mom, so this is difficult financially, but she does it eagerly because it is necessary for her daughter continue to heal. Being a single mom myself, I understand how hard it can be to find the money for basic necessities. I can only imagine how this is multiplied in her case.
At the end of our conversation, she asked if I would want to meet them when they come in for one of their appointments. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I can’t wait for the day to come so I can give both of them a hug.
I’ve always known that donation was the right decision for Peyton and for us. But hearing the love in Leslie’s voice and learning of everything they’ve been through served to drive that decision home even more. Although I cried through the conversation, it also brought me a great deal of peace. And even though we only talked on the phone for a little bit, I feel like Leslie and Carmie are part of my family. I would love to meet them someday and hope to have them in my life for many many years to come.