As many of you already know, my son Britt received a kidney & Pancreas transplant last week. After years of being diabetic & on dialysis and the last stages of renal failure – Britt is no longer diabetic nor is he renal impaired. His blood pressure has reached a normal level and even his eyesight is greatly improved. We were blessed – not lucky –BLESSED.
Britt’s journey of ill health began when he was two weeks old and has gradually taken over his entire 32 years of life until last week. As a mother, I watched my son slowly dying and for the last two years found him near death in his apartment too many times to count. His brothers and step sister stayed in fear of the call they expected to receive from me. Britt’s health was declining fast and we just didn’t know how long we would have him.
Britt’s greatest pride is his three year old daughter who lives with her mother in Kentucky. We were acutely aware that in his present condition his precious daughter might grow up without a father. Helpless to stop these events, we knew his legacy would be one of strength as he attempted to work every day so he wouldn’t have to accept food stamps or help. He would leave a legacy of strength and a sense of pride that he could assist in supporting himself.
What his family didn’t expect was a call that came in on Sunday April 17. My phone rang with the caller ID displaying a number I didn’t recognize. Mentally I tried to place the 205 area code with no success. I almost didn’t answer but something nudged me to do so. I excused myself from our dinner guest and answered cautiously – half expecting some telemarketer to try to sell me swamp land in Nevada. A young man called me by name and asked if I was Britt’s mother. His next statements left me almost mute from shock.
“Rhiannon, your son is on stand by for a kidney pancreas that we have available. Can you please give me Britt’s number and be ready to have in Birmingham?” I was in shock! They said we had another year before Britt would even be close to an organ transplant! I, of course, agreed and relayed his phone number to them. “This doesn’t mean he will get this but in case the other patient cannot make it or fails his evals – your son will be next in line. This other patient looks good though and we don’t foresee any complications.”
I ended the call with silent prayer. “Please let the recipients pass all his evaluations and – GOD – please bless the donor family and stay by their side during their loss.” My heart ached for a family’s loss. I would have to pack a bag soon because this call let me know that my son was next on the list. Britt called me from work, excited that he had received his call and we both agreed that we needed to pack a “Go Bag” for when his time came.
About four hours passed as we chatted to our guests on the patio. I had said numerous prayers for the donors family and the recipient of the organs. I assumed the organs would only be viable for four hours so I assumed the transplant was probably taking place. It was then my phone rang again and this time I recognized the number as the UAB transplant center. I answered as if I knew this young man this time – I mean after all he had just called me about a miracle we had prayed about for many years – my sons chance at life.
“Hi Rhia, this is UAB again, we couldn’t reach your sons cell phone so you are our contact support number. You need to get your son here as soon as possible. We have a kidney and pancreas for him. Bring him to the ER at UAB because they will be waiting on him. I looked across at Steve’s questioning face and gave him a thumb up. I said I would have Britt there and we would call when we were 30 minutes out. I called Britt’s work and asked them to page him. When I heard his voice on the phone, I simply said “Meet me at your apartment now. You have a donor and we have to get to Birmingham quick.” He was stunned because, like me, he assumed the previous person on the list had received their transplant.
I rushed into the room as Steve went to the attic to retrieve my suitcase … I threw some clothes in and other things, which made no sense to pack. Within 20 minutes I was on my way to pick Britt up and assist him in packing. He got his emergency packing skills from his mother since he was attempting to pull pictures from the wall and pack them. Three and a half hours later Britt entered the emergency room at UAB and I was looking for a parking spot.
I had continued my prayers for the donor family through admission and had asked my family and friends to pray for them. When we were settled into a room a male nurse came in and said the transplant would have healthy organs. He further explain they were coming from a 19 year old. Even in the blessing of life bestowed on my son my hear ached at the thought of such a loss. My youngest son was 19 and earlier I warned him to be careful since it was prom night. Had some family lost their baby to prom night? Had it been the fierce storms that had swept across the state? I wish I could do something for this family.
Britt went into surgery early the next morning after a barrage of conflicting events. The operation was very long yet they explain they had to get the pancreas ready and then his actual surgery was six and a half hours. I never felt more alone than I did during those hours. I kept slipping down to have a cigarette since they had my cell number to contact. A rather scary man kept coming up to me wanting a cigarette and I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable at that area.
Finally the Transplant doctor came out and assured me that Britt’s surgery went great. His new kidney was already working. He told me to get some sleep but even after 2 days without sleep, I knew I had to stay up a little longer. I couldn’t see him right away so once again, I went downstairs to have a cigarette. I found a little spot out of view whereas the scary man wouldn’t see me. Two nurses came close to where I was to smoke and were talking to each other. They were discussing the young girls horrible death and how her organs had went to help others live. In their conversation, they said a young man had received the pancreas and a kidney.
Anyone that knows me can vouch for my ability to do research and unearth an amazing mass of facts. As soon as I seen Britt and knew he was okay – I was going sleuthing for the donor.
When I entered ICU to see him, he opened his eyes and said “Mama, I know I just had major surgery but I feel better than I can ever remember. I think I could run back home.” I smiled and told him, “Well, why don’t you get through all this and let me drive you home in three weeks?” He nodded his head as he fell back to sleep. Hospitals, surgery and feeling sick were nothing new for him. He had lived his life this way. I kissed his forehead and headed for my hotel room.
Once I arrived, I booted my laptop up, accessed the internet and plugged in the information I knew on the donor. It didn’t take a sleuth or even a professional researcher to find his donor. It was all over the news, Facebook and web pages. There, at last, was a face for me to see. As I read about her, the circumstances around her loss of life and her own entries she posted on Facebook before she passed – I cried and yet thanked her for her giving my son a chance at life. As a mother, I ached when I learned she too had a son. A son, whose father was arrested for ending his mother’s young and vibrant life. It was on my mind constantly, the gift of life she, as well as her family had given my son and the tragic loss of young mother whose heart and soul beat for her child.
I had to return home to take care of Britt’s business and was encouraged to start a benefit fund to help him with his bills during his recovery time. The response was welcomed and I gathered his bills and future medical expenses to make a budget along with a projected amount needed to cover it all. I begin to wonder what to do if he received over the amount he needed for his expenses. Maybe give it to the domestic abuse agency? It was then I knew exactly what I do. I hurried and called Britt to tell him what I decided. He was excited at the idea and not only approved but encouraged me to put my all into it.
Mother to Mother – She had given my son a chance for a new life and we would help her by giving her son the chance she wanted for him. I talked to Compass Bank where I had opened the benefit account and asked them for their assistance. I looked up her great Uncle and asked him for his assistance in sitting up the college fund for his great nephew. He was so kind and helpful and thanked us. Yet there was no thanks needed except for the one we gave his family.
The Britt Orr Benefit Fund will take in donations and all money beyond his 2 ½ to 3 month assistance needed would go into a pre-paid college fund for her baby son. Mother to mother – helping our sons with a chance at life. As it took many to assist her in giving my son life – a transplant team – coordinators – it will also take many to assist me in setting up this pre-paid college fund.
Her family stressed that such wasn’t expected but was appreciated. They said they were happy that it had saved my son and they knew that was what she would want. Well, this is what we want. Heart to heart. She was a 19 year old mother who desirved more than what she received. She worked hard at McDonalds to try to give her son the things he needed. Will you please help me in giving her son a chance at a new life? As it took doctors, transplant personal and social workers to give Britt the chance she offered him – it will take people like you to help me give her son the things a 19 year old mother can hope for her baby.
Anyone wanting to help us with our goals can have a fund raiser or donate to:
Manager Shane Staton
The Britt Orr Benefit Fund
C/O BBVA Compass Bank
8890 Pensacola BLVD
Pensacola, Florida 32534
If you would like to host a fund raiser or make a donation – You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org