County Commission gets powerful lesson in value of organ donation
Two years ago, Rebecca Jansen was sitting at Children’s Hospital in Denver holding the hand of her 15-year-old son who was dying from injuries suffered in a ski accident.
Just hours earlier, Jansen had made the decision to take her son off life support and donate his organs. He was a healthy, outdoorsy youth and his organs would save or prolong the lives of six people. Laying her head on his chest, she listened one last time to the “sweet sound” of his beating heart and prayed that someday she might learn who received his heart.
As fate would have it, she had already met the recipient’s distraught parents, J.D. and Kathy Ross, in a hospital waiting room. Their 8-year-old son, Garrett, had already undergone oneheart transplant and now needed another.
The two families were formally introduced and they wept in each other’s arms as Darren’s heart was being transferred into Garrett’s chest. A powerful bond began to form between them. “We now both share a child, two boys in one,” said J.D. Ross.
A couple of weeks later, the two families met again. Rebecca gently asked Garrett if she could lay her head on his chest. She once again heard the sound of her son’s beating heart. “I’m telling you, that’s God’s gift back to us,” she wrote.
Jansen, who lives in Wyoming, had been scheduled to attend the event, but had to cancel at the last minute. So J.D. Ross, a lieutenant in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, read her letter. Standing at his side was Garrett, his cheeks flushed and fidgeting like any other 10-year-old.
The event, which was arranged by Commissioner Amy Lathen, was designed to heighten awareness of the hundreds of thousands of patients awaiting tissue transplants and organs.
Garrett was born on June 8, 1999, with a congenital heart defect and was placed on a national donor waiting list two months before he was born. When he was 7 1/2 months old, he received the heart of an 18-month-old girl from Texas.
On March 2, 2008, he received Darren’s heart. Ross, who has kept a diary of his son’s journey and has posted it on Blogspot.com, said he has no words to describe the meeting in the hospital with the Jansen family. “There are no such things as coincidences. There’s no such thing as luck. We’re blessed.”
The heart, he mused, is only tissue. “It’s not the heart that we love with.”