By Amy Fields
I am a nurse and respiratory therapist with OhioHealth. As a member of the medical community I have always been aware of the need for organ and tissue donation. Personally, it has always been an abstract concept — one that is good in theory, but will not be tested in my lifetime. All that changed, however, the day that I found out that my mom, Judy Rae Kern had developed Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. She would need a liver and kidney transplant to survive. Suddenly, it all became so real to our family.
My mom has always been the rock in our family. To describe her is hard — it’s like trying to describe the scent of a rose or the blue of sky. You just had to meet her to truly experience her kind and giving nature. She and my Dad were married for 40 years and were best of friends and the loves of each other’s lives.
When we first learned my mother was sick we were devastated. But she was a strong Christian woman and we knew if anyone could make it, it would be her. As she dealt with her illness, we could see that she was progressively getting worse – but her amazing strength always shone through. She did her best to continue working what hours she could and keep the home fires burning. We will always be so grateful to her employer and coworkers for being incredibly caring and understanding about her condition. She was functioning as best she could with her disease, having pericentisis twice weekly, and aprox 15 – 20 liters of fluid removed a week. She went into total liver and kidney failure at home, spent 24 hours at a local hospital, and was then MedFlighted to Northwestern University Hospital’s ICU.
Mom was so conflicted about her healing. She knew that to receive her “Gift of Life” another family would be suffering a great loss in their life. When Mom and I talked about it, we decided that we would leave the details up to God and His plan and just pray for the strength and wisdom to continue day-by-day. Mom never complained once while she was waiting for her second chance at life.
In the ICU waiting area at Northwestern, we met so many other families who were going through the same thing as our family. We became a community of hopeful people who were all waiting for the day when the doctors would tell us that there was an organ available for our loved one. Sadly, Mom never received that news from her doctor.
She was not able to receive a transplant in time and passed away on November 2, 2007. We later learned that two other families in the same hospital lost their loved ones while waiting for transplants the same day my Mom passed away.
I am comforted by the fact that the last communication we had from her, was when I was able to hold her hand and tell her many things, including how much our family loved her and how many people were praying for her. I told her that we were continuing to pray that somebody would make the decision to turn their own tragedy into a miracle for our family. As we spoke she moved her fingers to let me know she knew what I was saying. Typical Mom, her final gift to me was something I could keep forever, the knowledge that she knew we loved her and were there for her in her final hours.
We miss Mom each and every day. She left behind my Dad, my husband and I, my brother Matthew and his wife, Becky, who gave her the six grandchildren she adored. Although we will never share a holiday, a birthday or anniversary with her again, we are comforted that in the last days of her life she knew how much we loved her and ultimately how much we would miss her.
To be very honest, my mom would probably have hidden the keys to my Harley if she could! However she would also understand how much my husband and I enjoy riding. I carry her in my heart everywhere I go, and it’s a natural fit that I combine my love for riding with my love for my mother by participating in the “Live On. Ride On.” Campaign.
The motorcycling community is a very giving and compassionate group, as is evidenced by the many benefit and ‘cause’ rides organized by various groups each year. Speaking to a rider about becoming a registered organ donor is generally well received. Parking the bike for a while at an event, telling my mom’s story, and helping to dispel myths and inspire hope, to me that is what “Live On. Ride On.” is all about.4 Comments »