I like to touch a jewelry cylinder hanging around my neck when I speak about organ and tissue donation. This cylinder contains my son Adam’s ashes. Touching Adam strengthens me. I find my voice, his voice.
Adam was fond of his name, as he was identified as a girl at birth. His mom intuitively knew she was carrying a boy; we called him Adam while still in the womb. We named our child Rebecca Adam. Rebecca revelled in the boy’s middle name. All tomboy! Batman and Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price were his two heroes; a game and position Adam loved.
My son’s final five years of transitioning unfolded during his late teens and early 20s. His transition dovetailed with another epic journey, an epilepsy disorder that repeatedly knocked him to the canvas. Adam bounced back up every time, enduring two brain surgeries, the last one promising in 2015. His brain scans looked like Canada Day fireworks. Flares pointed to a trigger point deep within the brain. Removing that brain tissue might control the seizures.
Adam said surgery was a “no brainer”. He wanted his drivers’ licence back, play hockey, become a boy.
Two months after his surgery, I was in California visiting my sister. Adam’s mom called. Adam had a seizure in a hot tub, was resuscitated and rushed to hospital. When my sister, a nurse, dropped me off at the airport, she grabbed my arm. ‘“Hon, we want Adam to be well. But, if it is not to be, he is a young man with healthy organs. I know Adam wants others to have this gift from him.”
For the entire red-eye flight home, a good angel and a bad angel competed for my son. I root for a miracle. I plan a funeral.
Back home, I joined a 36-hour vigil. Adam’s Mom and I are separated but still lovingly co-parent. I bring up organ and tissue donation. Mom is not ready for that discussion. On the final night of our vigil, with Adam laying between us, she tells me she knows what Adam wants. At 16, when his driver’s licence came, he asked about the organ donation box. He said absolutely he would donate his organs if an accident happened. He is a registered organ donor. There was no hesitation from Adam when he chose to save lives by registering as an organ donor. There would be no hesitation from us. I knew the long list of people waiting, some who die. Judging no one, I never understood burying or cremating healthy organs and tissues.
Adam made me a better parent. He’s reminded me that I am still his Dad and he’s now my teacher about life. I understand how important it is to know your loved one’s final wishes because family consent is required even if someone is a registered donor.
Three weeks after Adam died, Trillium Gift of Life Network wrote that four people would live because of Adam’s generosity: “An adult female with extensive liver damage. Two adult women with end-stage renal disease, ” began the letter. My son’s final act is overwhelming. Our grief is permanent because our love for Adam is permanent.
The gratitude from the donor recipients pushes me through more walls of grief. We watch as many of Adam’s friends register as donors. Scars circle to love. We smile when we read a fourth life has been saved. Our son’s brave, beautiful heart has been gifted to a man.” John Dickhout, that man, sleuthed his donor identity and we have become good friends.
(Soar, Adam, Soar, Rick Prashaw’s book on Adam’s life, Dundurn Press, is available locally at several indie bookstores and at www.rickprashaw.com or Amazon, Indigo sites.
Rick – Donor Father