When our 22-year-old son Tim learned that he had a brain aneurysm, he had no choice but to have an operation to repair the weakened wall of the artery. Without surgery, his excruciating headaches would continue and a rupture of the artery would bring instant death. The operation corrected that problem, but hours later Tim had an adverse reaction to the trauma of surgery. His brain tissue swelled severely and the doctors could not control this.

We had no choice when we were told that Tim would not survive. We kept vigil through the night and hoped and prayed, but we were powerless to do anything to change the situation. Tim was dying and we could not prevent this. By morning Tim was brain dead.

A week prior to going into the hospital, Tim told me that he needed to sign the organ donor consent on his driver’s license. Tim fully expected to recover from surgery and continue his studies at UNO. He expected to ski, cycle, sail his boat, grow his flowers, pursue his photography and continue on the chase crew of his hot-air balloon team. He told his co-workers at J.C. Penney’s that he would be back to work, although he really wasn’t fond of his job in ladies’ shoes.  Of all the interests and passion that Tim had for life, the most important thing to him was helping others. So he knew he had to sign as an organ donor, just in case.

This was the choice Tim had. It was the choice he made. His mother, his older brother and sister, his younger brother and I had a choice also. As we sat in the ICU waiting room, we talked about Tim’s wish to be a donor and we chose to honor that wish. It was terribly painful to lose our loving son and brother. But it helped us to know that Tim saved the lives of three other people and improved the quality of life for several more through the gift of his heart, lungs, kidneys and corneas.

There are times in our lives when we have options and choices. There also are those times when we have no choice or control over our circumstances and lives. We are all going to die. We have no choice in this matter. The choice we do have is to tell our family and loved ones what we wish and do not wish to be done for us if we are unable to speak for ourselves. And we can choose to be organ and tissue donors, enroll on the donor registry and tell our family of this choice.

These are not easy choices for us to make. None of us likes to think about our mortality – our dying. Our religious faith reminds us “from dust we came and to dust we shall return.” We cannot prevent this. But we can preserve part of our physical being by donating our organs and tissue. Parts of us can physically live on in the bodies and lives of those to whom we give the precious gift of life – the gift of our organs and tissues. There is no greater love than this. There is no better, no more important choice we can make as stewards of the bodies and lives that God has given us. For the thousands of men, women and children who are waiting for organ and tissue transplants, this is A Matter Of Life And Death. We have the power to save lives. The Choice Is Ours.

Tim’s Dad, The Reverend William John Kouth
Retired United Methodist Chaplain