Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Per's Gifting Day

I won’t pretend that I knew her well. I met Persephonee one time, last summer in Minnesota. She was the daughter of my brother-in-law Karl’s close friend. She splashed around in the lake as I talked with her mom about how she was so excited to start kindergarten in a few weeks. I watched Persephonee that day--beautiful and energetic and happy--and thought that my son, who is almost exactly her age, would have a lot of fun playing with her. I mentioned that maybe next summer I could bring my kids and they all would play together.
Last week, Persephonee was a healthy five-year-old girl. Tonight and into the early hours of the morning, her parents will be offering the gift of life to other children through the donation of their daughter’s organs. They are calling it “Per’s Gifting Day.”
On Saturday night, Persephonee was having trouble breathing. Her parents took her to the ER early Sunday morning, where she was given some steroids and a nebulizer and then sent home when her breathing improved. Doctors assumed she had croup and that the steroids and some fresh air would help. That night, the difficulty with her breathing returned and then she couldn’t swallow. Her mom called 911. Persephonee lost consciousness and her dad performed CPR. While the ambulance arrived within four minutes, it took the EMTs twenty minutes to bring back any signs of life. By then, her brain had lost too much oxygen.
Doctors have determined that Persephonee had an infection called streptococcus pneumoniae, which is a type of strep not detected on the standard throat culture she had on her first trip to the ER. The strep bacteria led to bacterial tracheitis, a rare condition that swells and ultimately blocks the airway.
Persephonee’s parents, Amee and Chris, have spent the past few days cuddling in bed with her while machines keep her breathing. They made family handprints. They are telling stories. They are welcoming a lot of visitors. They have asked people to share photographs of Persephonee and send her thoughts of love.
I have cried a lot for Amee, for Persephonee. It’s not fair. It’s awful. I’ve just been doing my best to send virtual hugs from one mom to another, reaching from Tennessee to Minnesota. Putting myself in the position of holding my own five-year-old and getting no response, of clinging to my son for the last time before releasing him to perform a beautiful act of giving that will save others and afford reprieve from pain for other parents. Thinking what it would be like to watch people walk around me as if life was normal and wanting to scream, “Stop! Why are you acting like the world is the same today as it was yesterday when EVERYTHING has changed?!”
Of course, I have no idea what their pain actually feels like. I will not insult them to insinuate I even have the first clue. I can't imagine.
Amee and Chris have asked that people say their daughter’s name often today. Persephonee. They want her to leave this world surrounded by people thinking about her. Maybe whisper it in your prayers tonight. Tell your kids about her—about how she loved Frozen and kindergarten and McDonald’s French fries and singing and learning. Send thoughts of love and comfort to her and her parents. Persephonee. Read what her parents have written over the past couple of days as they reach out in shock and grief and love to tell others about their daughter.
Persephonee – Thank you. Because of you, I have hugged my kids more this week. I have been reminded of how precious they are, of how precious and fragile life is. You’ve also reminded me not to worry so much, because what good does it do? We are not in control. Your parents did not cause this to happen through any action or inaction on their part. So instead of worrying, we should embrace the wonder and the simple joys, much like I saw you doing on that beautiful day at the lake last August. Thank you for saving the lives of other boys and girls with the strong body that you leave behind. I trust you soon will be enveloped in peace and laughter and beauty and that you will be playing with other children who are no longer hurting here in this world. I hope to go to Minnesota this summer and bring my kids this time. I will show them where I met you and where you splashed in the lake. And I hope your mom is there again so that I can hug her, because even though I only met her once, that is all I want to do right now.
To everyone else -- Hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Play a game with them. Do something silly. Reach out to friends who are grieving, no matter the reason. Remind them that are not alone, because they likely feel so lost and lonely. And, if you aren’t already, please follow the lead of Persephonee and her parents and make sure you are identified as an organ donor if that moment ever comes.