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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: On Jan. 13, 1997, I joyfully anticipated the birth of my second child. Twelve hours later, my uterus ruptured during labor. An emergency C-section followed, but my son, Mark, was left with no brain activity. The doctor told me Mark's chances of surviving the night were grim. I felt as though I was falling backward into a tunnel. I knew then that I would do whatever I could to spare other parents this wrenching pain.

Then it hit me -- organ donation. As I plunged into the darkness of death, I was thrown a lifeline. Although my son would not live, at least something positive could come from his tragedy. Donating Mark's organs was the start of a series of small miracles that helped me to cope. Two years later, I met Jacob, a little boy who can now run, jump and smile at his mom because he has my baby's heart.

Today there are nearly 80,000 people in the United States on the waiting list for organs. Seventeen die each day while waiting for a transplant. April 21-27 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. The process is a simple one: Sign an organ donor card and discuss the decision with family members, because in many states family consent is mandatory at the time of donation.

For more information about organ donation or a free donor card, readers may contact the National Kidney Foundation at Box DA, 30 E. 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. The Web address is www.kidney.org. -- ELLEN KULIK, NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION DONOR FAMILY COUNCIL

DEAR ELLEN: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your child. I have long been a champion of organ donation, and I salute you for making a loving and positive decision at such a devastating time in your life. Although Mark could not live, you made sure that his death had meaning -- as the following essay by Robert Test makes clear.

TO REMEMBER ME by Robert Test

At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my "deathbed." Call it my "bed of life," and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teen-ager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body, and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.

(Reprinted with permission from The Living Bank, www.livingbank.org.)

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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