What do you feel when you see this photo?
I feel love, support, strength and sadness. This was taken in a hospital. The room was full. There were people filling the hallways and waiting rooms. This is the last picture taken of my donor Katelyn.
Last week a friend texted me saying that a woman had messaged her on Facebook looking for me. Her name was Cari and she believed that I had received her daughter Katelyn’s heart. She was right. I called Cari right away and we talked for half an hour. I learned that Cari called Katelyn ‘her heart’. Katelyn was born with a tiny hole in her diaphragm that caused her intestines to float up onto her lungs. She had a 10% chance of surviving the surgery. She was a fighter. She not only survived but she thrived. Katelyn was a powerhouse at 4ft 11in and sang and danced with all her heart. She loved sunflowers and lived in Colorado. She had a contagious laugh and lit up every room she walked into with her smile. Katelyn wanted a family and children of her own. She loved to be outside and with her family. Katelyn earned a degree in healthcare administration. Her faith was unshakeable. Katelyn passed away on February 16, 2016.
Katelyn’s lungs saved a beautiful woman in her 50s that has four children. One of her kidney recipients had diabetes his whole life. He no longer needs medication. He is clear and free of diabetes. Another kidney recipient had kidney rejection and was close to death. The doctor said that Kaitlyn and him are a perfect match, as if they were twins. Katelyn’s heart saved my life. I was in heart failure for eight years.
Cari, Katelyn’s mother, is the definition of strength. When we spoke she told me, “I don’t want you to ever feel guilty. Katelyn’s death and her organ donation are two separate events for me.” I was amazed. Her ability to take that view is extraordinary. I believe Cari gets her strength from her faith and from Katelyn.
April is Donate Life Month. Look at all the lives Katelyn has saved. Katelyn’s death is a horrible tragedy. Her organ donation is a legacy. She made an impact in the world she left behind that will never be forgotten. Katelyn is very loved. She is thought about and prayed for every day.
Without further ado, everyone, I’d like you to meet Katelyn Mary Vanacore.
Courage, dear heart. ~C.S. Lewis