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tikkun olam

Why I’m a Proud Jewish Organ Donor

Elizabeth

Elizabeth flickr

In the crazy way Facebook can bring people together, I, along with 50,000 other followers, watched a family fight for the life of, and eventually, lose their precious 2-year-old, Logan. I didn’t know the family personally, but Logan’s story popped into my newsfeed and I was following his family’s anguish, hoping and praying for a miracle for this beautiful little boy.

As a mom with a young son around the same age—a towhead like Logan—I couldn’t look away, even though the stories and photos were painful to see. A family’s worst nightmare was on full display. Logan’s community page is full of Christian psalms and prayers, and beautiful comments intended to lift up the family in their darkest hour and beyond. I couldn’t help but be touched by the outpouring.

In a freak accident, Logan’s head apparently got caught in a car window and he essentially suffocated, going without oxygen for more than 40 minutes. He was brain-dead for several days and after what I imagine were many unimaginable conversations, his parents decided to take the steps to donate his organs so their son’s legacy could live on.

But when Logan’s parents took him off the ventilators, the little boy began breathing on his own and his family was given the blessing of extra time with him. Logan died the next morning in his mother’s arms. Though he missed the window for his kidneys to be donated, he was able to donate his heart valves.

Even as I type those words, I cry. No parent should bury a child, yet my own aunt buried two children (at age 1 and 31). No parent should have to make the decision about organ donation, yet Logan’s parents just did. Terrible things happen to good people, with no rhyme or reason.

And like most parents, I have deep fears about losing my own children: to cancer or another illness, or to a freak accident. Our children are our hearts beating outside our bodies and though we cannot protect them from everything, we wish to God we could. It’s painful to think about, but looking the other way and pretending these things don’t happen doesn’t mean they won’t.

That’s why I’m a proud organ donor.

While Judaism is widely supportive of organ donations from a live donor to another live donor (a kidney transplant, for example), and in favor of post-mortem donation, there are disagreements over how different rabbis define death. Some say it’s when the brain ceases to function and others say it’s when the heart stops.

It’s a crucial distinction, since many organs are best harvested while the heart is still beating. (Our friends over at My Jewish Learning have a whole primer on the topic of Judaism and organ donation, and you can learn more about organ donation and the organ registry here.)

Regardless on where you stand, there can be no doubt that organ donation saves lives. My uncle Howie was born with juvenile diabetes and though he died from complications at the tender age of 34, his life was surely extended by receiving a kidney transplant in his 20s.

Yes, that’s why I’m a proud organ donor.

What Logan’s story made me realize that—God-forbid, if anything were to happen—I’d want our kids to be organ donors, too. Because in an unimaginably tragic situation, the ability to give life to someone else is a blessing.

Image: Elizabeth Flickr

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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