Organ donation: A tale of two mothers

Grateful recipient’s mom meets donor’s family

Xavier James’ story of waiting for and receiving an organ donation was told by his mother Valerie in two MSR articles: “Xavier’s story: African American boy waits for transplant” (May 17-23, 2007 issue) and “Xavier’s story’ has a happy ending: African American boy receives gift of organ donation” (September 27 — October 3, 2007 issue). In the following article, Valerie James continues the story of the gift of life given to her son by another woman’s son.

When I watch my son at the park swinging freely on the swing or laughing as he comes down the slide, I think about how different our lives were two and a half years ago.

Xavier was born with a condition called Posterior Urethral Valves. This is an abnormality that affects only male infants and occurs in about one in 8,000 births. As a result, he needed a new kidney.

My husband George and I were heartbroken to learn that we could not be living donors for him. As a parent you want to be able to protect your children from pain and suffering. Xavier’s name was placed on the organ transplant list on October 6, 2005. Xavier spent many nights in the hospital because of his kidney problems, and he had more surgeries before the age of three than many of us will have in a lifetime. As parents to three other children, it became a juggling act to maintain a sense of normality at home.

On August 4, 2007, two families’ lives were forever changed. Samuel McCrow and his family were vacationing in San Diego when his young life came to an end.

Sam was doing what he loved to do most, surfing. He had spent the day at Mission Beach teaching his cousins how to surf. As the avid surfer stepped out of the water, he collapsed. Despite every effort to save his life, Sam died from a brain aneurysm.

Two days later on August 6, 2007, Sam McCrow and his family did for Xavier what my husband and I were unable to do: They said yes to organ donation and gave Xavier the gift of life. This gift has changed his quality of life. He no longer requires 10 hours of dialysis each night, growth hormone shots or tube feedings.

On November 19, 2009, I had the great honor and privilege of meeting Sam’s mother Jasmine at Lifesharing’s Symphony of Life Symposium held in San Diego.

Jasmine had vowed never to come back to San Diego because of the hurt and pain associated with losing her precious Samuel, but her husband Ted convinced her to come down for the symposium and to meet our family.

That morning when we met, we hugged each other and cried together — two mothers sharing the loss of one son and the second chance for another. We sat outside the symposium and shared pictures and stories of Sam and Xavier. Sam also loved scuba diving, being a lifeguard, snowboarding, mountain climbing and traveling.

Sam was loved by many and he touched many lives. His motto was, “Life is short, so start partying.” I look forward to the day when my family can meet his father Ted and sisters Kaisa and Kristen.

I wear two bracelets on my wrist. One says, “Donate Life”; the other says, “Sam,” and it has a picture of a little surfer guy on it. When people ask me why I wear the bracelets, I get to tell them about the young man who loved life and who saved four lives, including my son Xavier.

Sam will always be our hero, and I think about him each and every day. As Sam’s sister Kaisa once said, “Through loss and tragedy, there are a lot of beautiful things that can happen.”

Xavier is now in kindergarten, and he loves riding his bike and meeting new friends. He is blossoming and learning to love life in a way Sam held dear.

A life of adventure, friends and family — this is a journey that the McCrow family is sharing with us. This journey has brought our two families together, and we love them with all of our hearts.

To become an organ donor, visit You should also make your wishes known to other family members.
Valerie James and her son Xavier live in San Diego.