The week that my brother was in a coma was, for obvious reasons, a really hard week. My family knew from the beginning that Andrew wasn't going to make it, so before the neurologist had even declared him brain dead, we made the nurses aware that we wanted to donate Andrew's organs. Then, when they declared him brain dead, they immediately started the journey of finding matches for his organs. As they continued to find a match, they would tell us, and my mother and I would tear up. I have previously written An Open Letter To Those Who Received My Brother's Organs in which I mentioned how amazing of a feeling it was to know that all of the transplants went well. That's pretty much the extent of how much contact I've had with the recipients.
That is until about a month ago when a local (to Raleigh, NC) news station did an interview on a 28 year old who had just received a double-lung replacement surgery because the surgery is super expensive and they were raising money (you can donate here!!)-- only hours after my brother was taken off life support.
It was a whirlwind. My half-sister found the page and linked it to my mother and myself. I called my mother. We both knew that it was him who received Andrew's lungs. My mom watched the news story where they mentioned the little things, like what the recipient likes to do in his free time. Everything was matching up: the timing, the location, the age, and the letter from Carolina Donor Services stating what the recipient liked to do.
I took the next step by posting on the Facebook page. I said, "Who in the family can I get in contact with? I believe the lungs Eric has is from my older brother." A few hours later, Eric's wife messaged me. She asked a few more questions, but the main one was the blood type: a perfect match for Eric's rare blood type. Marissa said Eric would message me tomorrow.
For about two weeks, Eric and I talked almost every day. It was a tad bit awkward at first (we're both admittedly awkward people), but then we got used to it. We talked about books, movies, writing, and a lot more stuff, obviously. We had day-to-day conversations. He joked about how he could help me with my editing one night. Just like my brother would.
It's interesting how alike my brother and Eric are, honestly. They talk very similarly on social media, and like very similar things. They're both very goofy and caring. (At least from what I know of Eric.)
Then, I came home one weekend and my mother and I met him and his wife at a Panera. Again, it was definitely awkward at first (at least for me and Eric, in my opinion, haha), but Marissa and my mom talked a lot and asked every one all the questions. After a while, it became very normal, and a lot of fun.
Surprisingly, it didn't hurt like I thought it would. From reading about families of donors, a lot of times they feel angry at those who received the organs. It's the whole "why did you get to live but not my person?" thing. I think for my family it actually helps us to know that Andrew saved so many people's lives. Instead of leaving the restaurant upset or angry, I was so happy. Eric has just graduated from his rehabilitation program and is finished with his antibiotics. In the almost-three months since the transplant, he has been doing so great.
I'm so glad that I can be in contact with Eric and talk to him almost every day. It's not weird anymore, and while we both know that we aren't each other's siblings and that I'm not looking for a replacement Andrew or anything (because yes, we had that talk, haha), it's still so nice to see where Andrew's organs are doing so much good. Andrew didn't think he affected anyone's lives in particular--well, he's wrong.
Eric is only one guy out of five who received an organ from Andrew. I only hope that I can get the chance to talk to and meet the other four.