In the hours between when we knew we were going to lose Peyton and when they pronounced him, his father and I were approached by a representative from the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance about donating his organs. We immediately agreed. You see, about 2 months before, Peyton and I actually had a conversation about organ donation. There was something about it on T.V. and Peyton didn’t really understand it, so I explained what it was and told him I was registered to be an organ donor. He sat for a few minutes, thinking it over, and then he said “That’s cool.” After a few more seconds he asked if he too could register. I told him he could, but that we had to wait until he was 18. (Little did I know how prophetic that conversation would be.) His father and I agreed to donate any viable organs, skin and corneas. When the time came, Peyton was able to save 6 people and enhance the lives of many others.
Over the last year or so, I’ve written letters to the recipients and sent them to TOSA, who then sends them on to those that received Peyton’s gift. I’ve continued to hope and pray that someday, those people would reach out to me. I knew I couldn’t be anxious and I knew that some recipients suffer from “survivor’s guilt.” I get that, really I do. But, I just wanted the chance to talk to them and tell them they have nothing to feel guilty for. Not donating Peyton’s organs was not going to keep him alive. But, in a way, part of him is still alive because they are alive.
Last fall, I met a little girl who had received one of Peyton’s corneas. I was fortunate enough to first talk with her mom on the phone and then to meet them. This little girl was a 9 year old beauty with a gentle and tender heart who had been battling degenerative eye issues her whole life. Her mother really started to think that having her eye removed was going to be the only solution, until they got a call about an available child’s cornea – Peyton’s cornea. While this transplant was not successful, it was the start down a road that would lead to her recovering some of her eyesight and having a healthy eye.
Then, on Peyton’s angel day, I got a message through Facebook from a woman who said her father, David, had gotten one of Peyton’s kidneys. I was immediately full of questions. Did he suddenly love video games? Was he now obsessed Dr. Who? Did he read and reread the same books over and over again? She told me that her dad was doing really well and had wanted to write me back. However he and his wife just couldn’t put what they wanted to say into words. I understood that. I mean, what do you say in a situation like that? Over the next few months, she and I continued messaging and finally decided on a time and place to meet. Because they live in Corpus Christi and I’m in Georgetown, San Antonio was the chosen city.
In the days before, I started getting anxious and worried. Maybe they wouldn’t like me. Maybe it would be weird and awkward. Maybe we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. And the worst, maybe I would just sob the entire time.
The day finally came and my sister, my brother in law and I started the hour and a half drive to San Antonio. We had agreed to meet at the San Antonio Botanical Garden at Anne Marie’s Carriage House Café. It was a beautiful early spring day, which in Texas can mean just about anything. Thankfully, it was sunny and a perfect 75 degrees outside. When we arrived, the hostess greeted us with a warm smile and told us the rest of our party was already there. I looked at my sister in near panic. Had she not been there, I don’t know what I would have done. But, onward I went. We walked outside and saw them right away. Even though we had never met each other, I knew immediately who they were. Before we could say too much, there was hugging. Lots and lots of hugging. When David hugged me, he whispered “Can you feel him?” in my ear and I knew right then that this man was very very special indeed.
We sat down and the conversation began. There were no awkward pauses. It wasn’t weird or uncomfortable. It was perfect. We learned about his career, his wife’s career and their hilarious and gregarious 3 grown children. They showed us pictures of David’s 3 grandbabies. And we learned that he had been on dialysis for 6 years prior to the transplant. Then he told us that he and Peyton were a perfect match. In fact, it wouldn’t have been better if they had been brothers. David is now healthy and doing well. With every story, all I could think of was that I was getting to hear them because of my sweet boy and that David got to meet a new granddaughter because of my sweet boy.
Throughout the 3 hours, I ran the gamut of emotions. One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying. It was tough emotionally, but it was a day I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. There was an immediate feeling of family between all of us. We’re connected in a way that few people ever get to experience. There is such an unexplainable feeling when you realize that your absolute worse day was their absolute best. Anguish and joy all at the same time. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that seemed to bond us in a way that can’t be broken. David is now looking forward to his 60th birthday celebration and I plan to be there to watch him blow out the candles (yes, I was invited! haha). Thanks to my amazing boy, David has many more birthdays to look forward to.
At the end of that perfect afternoon, I came away with so much more than I had going in. I saw firsthand the impact Peyton has had on those 6 people. I saw more joy and love than I had seen in a long time. And best of all, my family grew by 10. We are now forever connected and I will always call them family.