DEAR ABBY: On Jan. 11, 1994, my nephew made a fatal mistake. He accepted a ride from a man who had been drinking. Three hours later, we received a call from my nephew's wife -- he was on a respirator and was not expected to survive due to severe brain damage. It seems the driver had trouble making a curve in the road because he was speeding and intoxicated. The car struck a tree. The driver left him and the scene. Although it was a horrible shock, certain staff members at the hospital were able to guide us to the decision to donate his organs and tissue.
Death is never easy or painless, but take it from me -- grief can be transformed into an energy that can save the lives of so many. The death of one person can spare the lives of five or more people, and can even give sight to the blind.
There are also living donors: kidney, bone marrow, blood, red cells and platelets -- the possibilities are endless.
On April 16, I took my nephew's daughter to Washington, D.C., for the 1999 National Donor Family Recognition Ceremony. My family was joined by my nephew's kidney recipient. It was a celebration of a life that is burning brightly in others.
We still miss him very much, but we have been shown by God that there is no death. I encourage all to find a way to give. Even the smallest donation is larger than none. -- LORI NELSON, FORT WORTH, TEXAS
DEAR LORI: Your letter carries a powerful and positive message.
The most frequent source of transplant organs are the estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people who die of brain death each year in intensive care units in hospitals. Most of the donors are otherwise healthy individuals who are injured in freeway accidents, shootings or other tragedies.
The biggest obstacle in organ procurement is resistance on the part of families. Although health-care professionals request that families donate, many families who are approached are reluctant to permit it. That is why it is vital that those who want to become organ donors explain their wishes to their families early on. Organ donation cannot take place without the approval of the survivors.