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Heart of a Lion

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

Tales of Sorrow

“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…”

A tear rolled down my cheek as I listened to the music playing overhead. I had to remind myself not to wipe it because I was fully scrubbed in the OR, meaning there was an invisible barrier at the level of my chest that marked the border of the “sterile field” that my hands were confined to remain below. Before me was the body of a little girl who had been hit by a car the night before. Though her brain had been irreparably damaged, her heart was still beating – I knew this because I was looking right at it, bouncing so vigorously that I was

afraid it would literally bounce right out of her chest and onto the floor of the OR.

This was my first ever organ procurement. It was at once the most tragic and spectacular thing I have ever experienced in my life.

Earlier that morning, a transplant attending, fellow, resident and I, a third year medical student, had all piled into a private jet to fly hundreds of miles to join teams of doctors who had come from around the country to harvest organs for their patients.

Before the procurement began, the whole team listened to a note written by the donor’s parents. They wrote about their daughter’s joyfulness and spirit in life, and how even in death they felt she would have wanted to pass on a chance at a new life to others. Altogether, six strangers from across the country would have something in common tomorrow thanks to this one girl’s sacrifice – one heart, two kidneys, the liver would be split in half, and a small intestine. The parents also mentioned in their note that their daughter loved Disney music. In her honor, her favorite Disney songs were played in the OR throughout the entire procedure.

I was blown away by the magnitude of this human endeavor. Hundreds of people had come together at a moment’s notice to make this possible – doctors, nurses, transplant coordinators, the ambulance driver and jet pilots, and so many others behind the scenes, working tirelessly to save the lives of strangers they would never meet. But above all, I was moved to tears by the compassion of her parents. Their little girl had been stolen from them with unimaginable cruelty not even 24 hours earlier. But even in a moment of unfathomable

grief, they had chosen generosity.

Even in her last moments, it was clear for all to see that

this little girl truly did have the heart of a lion.

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