Behind every silver lining is a dark cloud, and Kevin Bond and Samantha Stevens just received the silverest lining imaginable – a new heart for their infant son, Hudson.
The dark cloud is the knowledge that their gain is someone else’s unspeakably painful loss.
“It’s been an amazing week,” Bond said when reached by telephone at Duke Hospital, where the surgery was performed and where his son is recuperating. “Hudson needed a heart transplant to ever be able to go home. The waiting time for a child his age is six months, but two months after he went on the list, we found a donor.”
I introduced you to Kevin, Samantha and Hudson a couple of weeks ago after Facebook forced them to remove a picture of Hudson from its pages because someone or something – executives blamed it on an automated system – at the social media behemoth concluded the picture was inappropriate. “Scary” and “gory” were two of the word used in rejecting it.
Because I always look on the bright side of every situation, I instantly saw that Facebook was merely trying to ensure that even more people than usual would become aware of the family’s post and thus contribute to the fund set up to help the ailing infant.
Wishes, money pour in
Facebook’s double-reverse altruism strategy – to galvanize Internet opprobrium toward itself – redounded to the family’s benefit: Kevin Bond said the family has received well-wishes, pictures and contributions from all over the world. So far, they’ve raised more than $140,000, and Bond has pledged that whatever they don’t need for Hudson will be used to help other families in similarly dire medical straits.
Now, would such an outpouring of altruism have been possible had not Facebook allowed itself to be universally villainized by initially rejecting the family’s post?
“We’re three days post-surgery now, and he should be home by Christmas,” Bond said. He was joyous, but it was understandably muted – perhaps out of consideration for the family whose loss made his family’s joy possible.
“Unfortunately, a lot of kids don’t make it,” Bond said. “They’re in a real delicate state until they can get that transplant.”
He noted that infants are susceptible to strokes, clotting and brain hemorrhaging, among other things.
Jim Inman, director of marketing for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, said the waiting period varies for each case. He agreed that lots of complications are possible while the organs are being sought.
Bond said he knows nothing of the family whose loss has given their son life, but he would like to. “They won’t tell us anything about them,” he said of the parents whose baby died. “It has to be mutual. I just got the paperwork. I’ll write a letter, and after a certain amount of time has passed, they’ll give it to them.”
If the other family is amenable, he said, they’ll correspond or meet with them.
It’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t want to, or that they could resist seeing that their own child lives on in someone else’s.
Bond said, “You wish you could reach out and give them a hug.”
It may be awhile before he can hug them or even correspond with them, Inman said.
The United Network for Organ Sharing tightly regulates communication between families that make the donation and those that receive it. “They’re very considerate, especially in transplant situations where someone has passed away in order to make an organ donation,” Inman said. “They ask for a certain time period before there is any communication.”
Bond said he and Stevens “absolutely” want to meet with the family that lost a baby. If and when he does, though, he isn’t sure what he will say to them.
“It’s so hard to put into words, to express those feelings. ... You’re happy, but you feel so bad knowing that they’re suffering. In one sense, it’s a miracle and we’re so thrilled and pleased and excited. On the other side of the coin, you know that someone else is suffering.
“I hope we can meet them,” he said, “but if we don’t, we’ll remember them for the rest of our lives.”