The tragic death of a local teen was all over the news and social media. A few days later the organ recovery was scheduled.
The organ recovery team came in with their own surgeons, anesthetist, scrub, and coordinators. They talked our scrub through setting up the back table with containers to receive the organs. I helped her open instruments before pulling drugs for anesthesia.
I walked with the coordinator, anesthetist, and another nurse to ICU to transfer the patient to the OR. Her parents were at her bedside giving all the last hugs and kisses and tender words. They weren’t ready to leave her side and walked along with us to the last OR door. I could hear her father trying to breathe and gulp back the sobs. We paused once more for the parents, and then they stepped back and watched us push the bed down the hall and around the corner.
Preparing her for surgery was not different than any other case except for the unfamiliar faces in the room. Monitors were attached. Her body was prepped and draped. A surgical time out was called. And then one of the coordinators read a prayer that thanked and honored the teen for her choice to give of herself one last time.
It was an interesting experience. My role was to assist the recovery team with supplies, medications, and anything else that came up.
Once the clamps are applied, the heart slowly stops. The activity on the monitor would normally call for a frenzy of action, but here the anesthesiologist simply turns off the monitor.
Each viable organ is removed, examined, and packaged by its specialty surgeon. At the end of the case, the patient is sewn up with a wide stitch. The recovery team leaves with their precious cargo. We pull back the drapes to see our previously pink patient now gray and blue.
The eye bank was there to collect the corneas. The young man snipped and cut a circle around each brown iris and lifted the tissue. He then pulled out the fluid in each eye with a syringe, packed the eye with cotton and a round form, and closed the lid. It was during this process that she seemed finally gone. Without her eyes, there was only a dark void in her gaze.
We cleaned and draped the body to leave on a stretcher to await transport to the morgue.