Josh was just twenty-seven years old when his young life tragically ended. Josh was a popular, friendly guy who would do anything to help a friend. He could always be found in his garage rebuilding jeeps, trucks, or other vehicles. Josh’s father, Mike, and sister, Jenn, were attempting to get their lives together and recover from the devastating loss of their beloved wife and mother as a result of a car accident she had been in less than two years earlier. Recently, Josh had met and fallen in love with Melissa, and he was finally able to envision a bright future for him and his young daughter, Aaliyah (Bee). But everything changed on the morning of July 15, 2016, when Josh jumped on his newly purchased Suzuki motorcycle and began the half hour drive to his job. Disaster struck. A horrific crash found him being rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition. It was bad enough that the Windsor Star reported on it.
Mike and Jenn arrived at the hospital and were assured by the attending nurse that Josh would survive, although the road to recovery would be long and difficult. But within hours Josh’s condition had deteriorated?his brain began to swell. After many attempts to stop the swelling the doctors stopped offering hope for recovery. There was no brain activity. Life support was the only thing keeping Josh alive. Mike and Jenn knew this was not the life Josh would have wanted, but as they stood in the hall trying to digest the fact that they would have to face another loss, Josh’s nurse asked to meet with them. Mike knew they were going to ask about organ donation and his immediate response was “no,” he was not going to donate his son’s organs. Jenn, on the other hand, was an organ donor. She shared with her dad her belief that if Josh were in their shoes, he would say “go for it.” Mike was still hesitant, but when Jenn mentioned their late mother, who had been a nurse, would have wanted to help others, Mike knew in his heart it was the right thing to do. The heart wrenching decision was made. Arrangements were put in place, recipients were notified, and, on July 19, 2016, Jenn and Mike said a final goodbye to their beloved son and brother.
Ten days later Mike and Jenn received a letter from the Trillium Gift of Life Network thanking them for being an organ donor. Four people with terminal medical conditions had been helped according to the letter. At this point, Mike and Jenn knew that, as painful as it had been, they had made the right decision. Since Josh’s passing, his family continues to receive anonymous personal letters from thankful recipients. Following are some excerpts from two of the letters they received. This first one is from a kidney and pancreas recipient.
“I am the recipient of your family member’s two organs, kidney and pancreas. I am an elementary school teacher and have had diabetes for many years and developed kidney disease as a complication. The thought of being rid of both diseases was a miracle in my eyes. I have been struggling in writing this letter to you because I can’t express my gratitude enough. How do you say thank you enough to a family that has suffered such a great loss. The impact this transplant has had on me has had its ups and downs, only because I am so grateful for the gift you have given me and also feel so compassionately about what you have gone through. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and most sincerely for giving the gift of life and giving me, personally, a second chance at life! You are truly a blessing.”
And an excerpt from a letter sent by the recipient of Josh’s lungs
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Such small words that hold so much heartfelt meaning. I can’t even begin to express the joy and happiness I have in my heart because of you and your loved one’s generous gift. My family and I are so blessed and grateful to you knowing I will be able to live a longer and healthier life. I can play and watch my grandchildren grow. I can travel and go camping once again. How great it is to be able to just stand and take in a deep breath and smell the smell of fresh fallen rain and to walk more than 300 meters without running out of air. My life was not much more than just existing. We prayed for a miracle and then that day came, our prayers were answered. The gift of your loved one was given to me and gave me a second chance at life. I am looking forward to a brighter future. So thank you once again. I am so grateful to you and I promise I will do everything possible to live with great care, responsibility, healthy habits and love life to the fullest, to honor you and your loved one. ”
Mike still has his hesitations about organ donation, but he appreciates that his son could give others a chance at life. No matter how painful it is for Jenn to read these letters, she knows Josh is at peace knowing he could help others right through the end of his life. She remains a strong supporter of organ donation and encourages others to sign their donor card.
Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. She can be reached on twitter @BarbGod