May 19, 2016
We drove into the sunrise on October 11, 2013, our wedding anniversary. We had received a call at 6 AM. We were on our way to the hospital to say goodbye to the heart that had struggled to keep our daughter alive the last two years. We rode in silence knowing that we were driving because someone’s precious child had died. And these parents, in the moment of their deepest grief, had said “yes” to saving a stranger.
Our daughter Shiloh had been born with a critical heart defect, surviving three open-heart surgeries before she was a year and a half old. The last surgery had failed her and she was emergently listed for a heart on August 14, 2013. We waited 88 days for that life saving call. It was our only hope. I watched, day after day, as my sweet toddler got sicker before my eyes. She could barely endure her 2nd birthday party, held in a conference room at the hospital.
We were saved by that call in the nick of time.
Two weeks after her transplant I wrote a letter to our donor family to express our unending gratitude. Our two families had been married in the most beautiful, heartbreaking, miraculous way. I heard back from them three months later. They told me of their son, a four-year-old who was loved beyond compare. The last words his mother whispered to him were “you are my sunshine.” It felt like no coincidence that this was the same song I had sung Shiloh to sleep with for her entire life.
Shiloh’s new heart has done incredibly well. It was such a perfect match. I have been very insistent on her living a normal life. The only thing different about Shiloh is that she takes medication to keep her heart happy.
We live every day since then in gratitude. As you can imagine, Shiloh was born with a lot of fight in her, and her feisty, unique personality captures everyone’s heart. Each time I drop Shiloh off to preschool, each push on the swing, each sticky handhold, every time I set a fourth place at my dining table for a holiday I have our donor family to thank. Words are never enough – they gave me the gift of a lifetime with my Shiloh.