Turning Sadness into Compassion

From “When Does Death Start?” by Darshak Sanghavi, New York Times, December 16, 2009:

Holleigh and Paul Tlapa with their children (Alexeigh, Aspen and Gage) at a shrine to their daughter Jaiden, who died at age 8.  (Photo by Lydia Panas for The New York Times)Over time Holleigh Tlapa and her husband, Paul, realized Jaiden wouldn’t get better, and they asked about organ donation. Because she wasn’t brain-dead, D.C.D. [donation after cardiac death] was the only option. Although the task force at Children’s disagreed about D.C.D., the hospital drafted a protocol. The Tlapas were told about the disagreement, but they chose to proceed. On Jan. 13, 2008, a dying but not dead organ donor was brought to the operating room and prepped for withdrawal of support for the first time in the hospital’s history. Holleigh and Paul lay in their daughter’s bed and played Jaiden’s favorite Miley Cyrus song as the breathing tube was removed. They held their daughter and waited.

There’s something remarkable about such families. I’ve known hundreds of parents whose children are stricken by terrible diseases. For many, the gravity of the situation is so overwhelming that they withdraw into themselves, letting no emotion escape, and then suddenly explode into a supernova of blame and anger. But there are others on whom this terrible pressure exerts a metamorphic power that turns some of their sadness into a compassion that is strong and diamond-brilliant. [More…]