What would you say?……. What would you say to the mother and father of a child that saved your daughter’s life?? No. What would you say to the mother or father of a child that DIED SAVING your child’s life?? On top of that, knowing that the child HAD TO die in order to save yours? What would you say?
Since the day I learned the identity of Mia’s heart donor, I have been unable to discuss it, and unable to even THINK about it……without crying. The day I watched the video of the accident that gave my daughter ‘life’, and a second chance, I was in tears, hysterical, sobbing uncontrollably in my front room, wallowing uncontrollably in a mixture of sorrow- for the loss of this child; and profound, indescribable gratitude for the Life and second chance of mine. I was transported to the moment I saw my daughter laying on the hospital bed, not breathing, being shocked and given cpr, and then thinking she had died when they couldn’t get her heart to start again. Fast forward to the day, 7 days later, that we were told she was going to get a new heart. Hope! in the face of death and despair, when the light was beginning to fade and the door was shutting on our Mia’s life. I thought I would feel nothing but complete gratitude toward the donor and his/her family once I’d found out who it was. But, the reality left me almost unable to even speak about it, which certainly prevented me from conveying my feelings of gratitude to these people. As of today,….. I haven’t. But, now, I think I can. And I am trying.
But, first, let me try to explain…. I had been praying and meditating for this “Gift”. Whether you understand this or not, and I did not, but my entire body and mind was flooded with so many emotions. I couldn’t separate them all. I had a strange but overwhelming sense of guilt, I felt responsible for his death! I had prayed for a heart! And Mia had been given one!….. I worried that I had somehow ‘made’ this happen. And as I watched the news video clip reporting his death, I knew immediately that no matter how strong my feelings of gratitude, I would never be able to take away or reverse the pain and loss being felt by his grieving parents and family. I began to have a visceral reaction as I watched the video. I kept thinking of this beautiful boy named Michael, who died, so that my daughter might live.
As a young boy, I would imagine what it would be like to give my life to save another’s? You see, growing up in the late Sixties, early Seventies, and having a Viet-Nam Vet father, I was fascinated with the sacrifices that so many good and noble young men and women made in that war, and that of many of my father’s friends. As a child, I asked my Dad about it often. He didn’t like talking about it much, and when he did, he spoke of the character of the young men he’d served with. And the sacrifices that they had made……. in the name of a Greater Purpose, that of protecting our Country, the Principle’s of Freedom and America, and each other. So, even though he didn’t glorify war and death or killing, I was impressed with the willingness of these great men to sacrifice their lives to save those of others. And so, I was fascinated with playing ‘war’ with my friends in the field by our house. I would day-dream, and fantasized about ‘giving the ultimate sacrifice’ by throwing myself on a handgrenade with just enough time for me to make eye contact with my best friend, and I’d smile, ‘saying’ that it was the greatest gift I could imagine. To give my life to save that of my best friends. ;-).
But what of saving the life of a complete stranger??
Well?… that sort of thing only happens in Hollywood. But in real life, sometimes it happens something like this:
A seven year old boy in North Dakota goes to school one day in May. At school, they have some presentation or discussion about organ donation. And for some reason, this boy is moved. He ‘gets it’. He comes home and tells his Mom and Dad, “Mom? I wanna be an organ donor.” Although it’s a strange request from a 7 year old boy, the Mom says something like, “Well, when you’re 16 years old and you get your driver’s license, sure you can sign up.”, and she feels proud that her son would already be thinking of such a thing. Little would she know that her sweet, innocent, beautiful, and precious son would have his chance two days later.
There was no hand grenade. He didn’t know my daughter. There were no sweet moments of ‘Goodbye’, with a look in his eye that says, “I love you”……. Instead, ‘Mikey’, of Fargo, North Dakota, became an Angel on June 5, 2011, when he gave his heart to my dying daughter. The ‘grenade’ was a truck. Two days earlier, on June 3, 2011, the truck took his life in a blink of an eye as he crossed the street on his way home from a play-date at a friends house. He never saw it coming. No one did. He was left with no brain activity…… But miraculously, his other vital internal organs were spared. The gifts of Life. He gave his other organs, including his liver, his kidneys, and many more. Mikey saved the lives of over 6 people that day.
And so, on the day I learned of Mikey, I was humbled. Again. Outside of the death of my child, I NEVER expected or thought I could feel so much sorrow?! I was sincerely left incapacitated. Thank God a good friend stopped by to bring something to Mia…… the same sweet friend who visited Mia the second day she was in the hospital, and who, being a doctor herself, knew just how to make Mia and the rest of us feel better. (In the hopsital, she came right in and immediately began painting Mia’s toe-nails! And the legend of Mia’s finger and toenail polish began! But she comforted Mia and us then, only hours after Mia had been placed on ecmo/heart and lung bypass; and here she was again!….. and I melted in front of her.) She held me as I sobbed, and let me explain what I had just learned…….. Thank you, Angie. And Stef. I’m sorry you had to see me so, but was so thankful that you were there to comfort my aching heart and soul.
I can not explain this to you all….. and the tears, they run down my face even now, trying to understand it fully myself!!…. and all I can say is that I can not imagine what Mikey’s parents and sisters and brother went through?!! Their pain!! Their loss!!…… losing their child, their brother….. so young. So fast. No warning. And I think my tears are really an expression of my overwhelming gratitude for the Miracle that my daughter still lives! Of my desire to say and demonstrate my feelings to Mikey’s family. I now realize that Mikey is smiling. I think he see’s Mia, and the other people he helped, and he feels good. At least, I know he feels no pain.
I cannot give you back your son. I cannot imagine your pain. But I can say Thank You. And I can try to acknowledge the Gift that your son has given to me, my family, our friends and community, and to Mia herself. We want you and your family, your friends, and your community to know, that we give Thanks every night, and every day. And we will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. There is not a single day that goes by that I do not mention his name, see his face in my mind, and I give thanks for his life. And for you all. Michael is our hero. You all are. His whole family. Bless you, his mother, father, family and friends. We mourn with you for your loss, and dedicate our lives to making his life continue to have purpose and meaning in the body of our daughter. And I know you’d be proud. Mia is a sweet, kind, and gentle soul. She truly is a good person….. and I believe she must have been worthy of his Gift. I can tell you that she appreciates every day she has now. Thanks to your son, and to you, and the amazing doctors and nurses who made it all happen.
Finally, to our community, family, and friends……. Please, in your comments, feel free to express your thoughts and gratitude toward Mikey’s family, friends, and community, who are still and forever feeling the pain of his passing. To his sisters, and his little brother, and his parents: Dear Bobbi and Jeff, may the Love and Support that we have received over the last six months be felt and directed toward you and yours. We are forever grateful.
His name was Michael John Allen Dean Fetzer. He was 7. His mother says he was named after some very special people. He certainly lived up to his name. Oh, he liked apple pie. 🙂
To learn more and to see the news clip about Mikey, you can follow the following link: