It was a Sunday afternoon when I received a call that Oliver, my youngest son, was in an induced coma in Auckland. He had fallen and hit his head while at the beach and his friends had found him in the water and given him CPR. The doctors did not know at the time the extent of his oxygen deprivation and brain damage.
My wild, beautiful, 31 year old son had just visited me from the USA, where he worked as a director of cinematography. Oliver was a warm, inclusive person with a great creative mind. He was a brilliant, funky, witty and an unconditionally loving person who gave the best bear hugs ever.
After I received the call, I made the hardest phone calls to Oliver’s siblings, one in Peru and one in New York State (his father had died 6 years earlier). I flew to Auckland as I had a feeling Oliver would not survive. When I arrived at the hospital at least ten of his friends were there. The love and support that I received from his young friends, as well as from my dear friends, was beautiful. He was loved and appreciated by so many. Messages kept streaming in while we were waiting to find out more.
I mentioned to the doctors that I would like him to be a donor if he didn’t survive. His brother flew in a few hours before Oliver was determined to be brain dead and his sister a couple of days later and both agreed to him being a donor.
Oliver helped two people; one no longer needs dialysis and the other was given another few years with his family before he died, not due to the organ donation though. This man wrote the most beautiful letter to Oliver’s siblings and I, to let us know that he might now be able to support his family a bit longer and spend time with his grandchildren.
It is deeply moving and helpful to know that Oliver is still contributing and that he is helping others to live a better and healthier life. Sometimes I wonder if the recipients ever got an intense urge to dance!
Since Oliver’s death I have had a wonderful connection with Organ Donation New Zealand. In the first three years especially, it was important for me to hear how the recipients were doing. Attending ODNZ’s annual Thanksgiving Services has been uplifting, especially hearing other recipients tell their stories.
I hope that organ donation becomes a topic of conversation in every family, among friends, in schools and by doctors and nurses.
After Oliver’s death, National Geographic wrote a tribute to him. He was respected by many in his field and was nominated for an Emmy, which he unfortunately never knew about.
There is much I can write about this man, who wanted his Mama to join him at Burning Man (which I did), who loved fishing and to pickle herring (I am Swedish) and who could sit in a dingy for hours fishing all by himself from a young age. His friends said he packed at least 70 years into his short life and that made me smile, as Oliver was immense in so many shapes and forms.
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