Young Mother and Tiny Donor Make Lasting Impact
July 10, 2017, started out like any other Monday for Jessica Roth, director of donation services for LifeGift – until a phone call changed the entire course of her day and outlook on life. Jessica describes this pivotal moment from her own point of view:
Monday, July 10, 2017, is a day that will be cemented in my memory forever. It started out like any other Monday: Wake up, roll out of bed, make the coffee, get the kids dressed, rush out the door, and you know the rest.
However, while I was complaining to myself about the morning traffic, a young woman lay in a hospital bed, and her decision to embrace hope over despair would change my opinion about life forever.
It was around 9 a.m. when we received the call: “A mother has some questions about organ donation,” said the voice on the line. Initially the call didn’t seem any different from the many calls we receive every day. We experience a lot of death and tragedy in our daily work and, well, it goes with the territory.
However, there are those rare moments in which light can find its way through darkness and despair, and illuminate a rarely traveled path. This was one of those moments.
Aleisha Menses is the mother of Sophia Olivia. Sophia was diagnosed with anencephaly and her mother and father were told she would not live long after her birth. When many of us would most likely be mourning the pending loss of our baby, Aleisha was making plans. She was embracing this moment; she saw it as an opportunity and she wanted to know how she could help others. “I want to donate anything I can, even my breast milk if that is possible,” said Aleisha.
Aleisha, only 16, hadn’t lost hope. Tearful, she asked, “How can my baby help?” We didn’t have a simple answer. We weren’t sure how, but we were all certain we would make sure she could.
After many hours of phone calls and searching for options, we were not sure we would find a way. Nonetheless, we would not be deterred so we kept looking. While we continued to search, Aleisha and her boyfriend received some earth-shattering news: Sophia had died before being born. In a moment when most of us would have no longer been consumed with the idea of helping others, I witnessed a woman with strength and purpose stand tall and speak loudly, “I will embrace every moment Sophia is with me and not mourn her death but celebrate her life.” The room filled with tears – including my own.
Thankfully, our perseverance paid off. We found an opportunity, a way Sophia could help and a way Aleisha can ensure a legacy for her daughter, a life that was never lived. We presented her with this opportunity and Aleisha, without hesitation or a stutter, said, “Of course.”
On July 10, 2017, at 6:53 p.m., Sophia Olivia was born to heaven surrounded by her parents. She was kissed and held throughout the night until the morning when her mother handed her to us and said, “I am ready to let her go now.” At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sophia’s eyes were recovered and sent to Florida where they will be used for research and education to improve the treatment for the blind.
Taking a line from Jane Watson, a famous nursing theorist, caring is the essence of what we do. Aleisha embodies the principal of caring and kindness and her generosity are true and selfless displays of providing hope. Wise beyond her years, I learned some valuable lessons from Aleisha and was honored with the opportunity to share in her journey engulfed in hope and optimism.