Keeping Amy's memory alive

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Amy Wetzel, Donor

Keeping Amy's memory alive

Posted June 8, 2011

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As parents of six children, we always thought we’d get a call in the middle of the night saying, “There’s been an accident.” Never did we dream on a sunny Saturday morning in July we would get that dreadful call.

amy-wetzelOur youngest daughter, Amy, was on her way to work as a lifeguard when someone crossed three lanes at Manchester and hit her head-on. Amy had her seat belt on and always made sure everyone else did. The paramedics were there immediately and transported her to the hospital where I happen to work as a registered nurse. When my husband and I arrived, Amy was already in surgery, and we were told it was quite serious.

They had already done one EEG, which showed no brain activity. The neurosurgeon saw one of our other daughters, who is also a registered nurse, and asked her if she thought we might consider organ donation. Anne said she would have to ask us.

He was the gentlest man and said that this is one of the hardest things he has to do. He himself had two young sons. He told us Amy was brain dead. They would do another EEG in 12 hours to make sure, but he didn’t think it would change as the damage to the brain was so severe.

Our family had never talked about organ donation, but my husband and I looked at each other and just knew it was the right thing to do. If our daughter couldn’t live, we would want someone else to get such healthy organs. Amy was only 17, but she had already donated blood, and we felt sure that she would want us to do this.

“If our daughter couldn’t live, we would want someone else to get such healthy organs.”

The transplant coordinator, Tina, was very knowledgeable and supportive. She assured us we would not be charged as MTS picks up all of the charges involved in transplantation. I remember saying our goodbye to Amy, and one nurse saying she might not be able to donate if they couldn’t keep her stable. I went home feeling sad and thinking, “what a waste of healthy organs if she can’t donate.” I remember getting a call at 2:30 a.m. asking again for our permission and felt a little better.

This began our family’s association with MTS. A couple of months later, I kept calling MTS asking to speak with Tina. They were always so polite and asked if I would leave a message. Finally, I did, and Tina called and asked how we were. I thanked her for being so kind at the hospital and asked her if there was anything we could do to help support organ donation.

“I really feel that anytime we do something for MTS, it keeps Amy’s memory alive and has helped us make lemonade out of lemons.”

In the 12 years since this happened, we have met some of the nicest people. I remember the first Donor Family Brunch, and Dean wondering if anyone would come. More than 200 people showed up to voice their concerns, and this has become an annual affair. Lucy started the Donor Family support group, one of the first in the nation, and it meets once a month to help donor families cope with their grief and give each other support. Until you go through something like this, no one really understands. Our whole family has been involved in volunteering, and I really feel that anytime we do something for MTS, it keeps Amy’s memory alive and has helped us make lemonade out of lemons.

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