written by: Elizabeth Woods
I met Michael in college; he worked in the College Bookstore and I was the brash editor of the college newspaper. Mike had never been married, I was divorced with 4 kids.
Although Mike was 4 years younger than me, we started dating within months after we met. As we got to know one another, we realized that we had a lot in common. We were both family-oriented, we both loved kids and we were both blood donors.
Mike made friends for life with just a smile, and people loved just being with him. He was friendly and well-thought of at his job. Everyone at NCCC knew Mike. My kids loved Mike, and I often said that being married to Mike was like having 4 children and one big kid. He saw the world through the eyes of a child when he was with them, and wasn't afraid to let my girls paint his nails and drink tea with them. Then, in an hour's time, he would be changed and ready to play Frisbee golf at Joseph Davis Park with my son and his friends.
Mike loved nature and took some of the most amazing pictures of everyday things that we take for granted. He loved the water, and when we lived in Youngstown near Lake Ontario, I would often find "missing" Mike sitting on a rock on the shore of the lake, many times with his puppy, Molly, in his arms. He just marveled at the beauty of the water and the surroundings. He collected shells and bits of smooth glass that he found on the shore, and I still have a small bottle of his treasures on my dresser.
Shortly before we got married on July 24, 1987, my doctor found a tumor and we faced the uncertainty of not knowing what it was, or whether we'd have a future. During the weeks before my surgery, Mike and I talked at great length about my wishes, should the worst happen. I told Mike that I was an organ donor and if anything should happen to me, he was instructed to contact the organ bank right away. Mike told me that he felt the same way. We agreed that if we weren't using the organs anymore, they should go to someone who could live because of them. Luckily, my surgery went well and I was given a clean bill of health a month after our wedding.
Mike and I were approaching our 1-year wedding anniversary. I was working 2nd shift and Mike was working days, so there was always someone home with the kids. July 8, 1988 was a Friday; I had been sick and Mike stayed home from work to make sure that I was okay. I insisted on going in that night and Mike insisted on driving me to work so he could come and get me if I didn't make it through the shift.
I went on my meal break at 8:00, and was stopped in the hall by the shift supervisor and the security guard. My supervisor said "There's been an accident. You have to call your mother-in-law right away." My mother-in-law said that Mike had been in an accident and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I waited for a ride and when I got to the hospital I was told that Mike was working on his car and it slid off the car ramps and pinned him. The doctor said he was in grave condition; he had been in total arrest when the EMTs arrived and although they were able to shock his heart to get it beating again, his condition had not changed.
Hours later, my family doctor examined Mike and told me that he was brain dead. There was no hope of recovery. I sat by Mike's bed all night, talking to him, singing to him, and sharing my thoughts and memories with him. Shortly after 6:30 on the morning on July 9, 1988, I noticed that Mike's heart rate was slowing. I talked to the ICU nurse and asked her to get the ER doctor up to his bed as soon as possible. I returned to Mike and told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for loving me and my kids, and I told him that it was okay to go. Less than 20 minutes later, at 7:00 AM, he was pronounced dead.
I guess I lingered by his bedside for a while, but I'm not sure. I do remember walking into the nurse's station and asking for the organ procurement nurse, who happened to be at the station. I explained to her that Mike was adamant about organ donation, and asked what I had to do to sign the authorization. The procurement nurse seemed surprised. She thanked me for making the process easier, and explained everything to me. She was wiping tears as I handed her the clipboard. She told me she was so sorry that I lost Mike -- and I knew she meant it.
The next few days are pretty vague. I had to tell each of my children that Mike was gone and was never coming back. I had to plan a funeral, buy a casket and cemetery plot, and come to grips with the fact that I was going to have to face life without Mike.
Several weeks later I received a letter from an eye bank. The letter informed me that Mike's eyes had been donated to a 19 year old who had a degenerative eye disease and was legally blind. I still remember the words: "Imagine his mother's great joy when her son could see her face clearly for the first time in almost ten years. She shares in your sorrow, and wants to express her heartfelt gratitude to you and Michael for your priceless gift."
I wept when I read those words. I was still in such pain over losing Mike, but as a mother, I was also overjoyed knowing that a young man could see again because of Mike's donation. I always knew that my decision to honor Mike's wishes was the right one, but that letter sealed it for me.
We are only here for a little while. That point was never as clear as it was on July 9, 1988. Mike was a loving, caring, giving person. It only made sense that he would give all that he could once his body no longer needed it. And it brought me and my children comfort knowing that Mike lived on in some small way.
Now, years later, my children are grown with children of their own. We still talk about Mike frequently. My grandchildren look at his pictures and listen to our stories; sometimes one of them will say "I wish I could have known him".
We have a great appreciation for UNYTS and the work they do. I have made my wishes to be an organ donor well-known to my children, who are now all adults. My daughters and I donate blood regularly; two of my girls have already completed their organ donor registrations. Whenever the subject comes up, I share my story so that others may be encouraged to participate in organ donation.
My reason for being a blood donor was simple: I wouldn't be alive if I hadn't received blood transfusions during the birth of my first child. Mike donated blood because he believed it was the right thing to do. He told me that he was so grateful for the transfusion that saved my life -- he knew we would never have met if blood wasn't available for me that cold day in February of 1973. That's the person Mike was. He was gentle, caring and compassionate. He loved fiercely and was loyal to his friends and family.