Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scott's Story

The winter of 1996 will never be forgotten by two California families. One will remember with extreme joy; my family, with profound grief.
After receiving mushrooms that had been gathered in the hills near San Francisco in early February, 1996, a mother used the harvest in the family supper. Within hours of ingesting the mushrooms, she and her three children became extremely ill. Examination of the mushrooms revealed they were highly toxic. With massive doses of antibiotics, the woman and her two sons began to show improvement. But the 13-year-old daughter’s health rapidly deteriorated and her liver began to fail. She was placed on the emergency transplant list. Death was eminent.
At last, the family finally received news that a donor match was found for their daughter. That evening, the young girl underwent a transplant graft; one half of a healthy liver was attached to her failing liver. Within days, her liver regenerated, and she eventually made a complete recovery.
About two-hundred miles away, in Reedley, a small community in central California, on the morning of February 5th, my teenage son, Scott, made a grave mistake in the woodshop at his high school. An accomplished woodworker already at the young age of sixteen, he placed a wood file between a tool brace and the oak tabletop which was spinning on the face-plate of a lathe. The file jammed and the tabletop shattered. Pieces of oak became projectiles in the woodshop. One 14-inch piece of wood hit Scott directly in the face.
Our family was forced to contend with the realities of sudden death. After 30 hours on life support, Scott was declared brain dead. Our family made decisions we never could have imagined – to have our precious sixteen-year-old son became an organ donor.
On February 7th, Scott’s liver, heart, kidneys and pancreas were removed to be donated. That evening, a representative from the California Transplant and Donor Network told us some preliminary information regarding the value of of decision. Although no identifying information was given, the representative noted that Scott's liver went to a young girl in the San Francisco area, who was near death after ingesting poisonous mushrooms.
I will never forget the winter of 1996. I remember it with profound grief.
The evening of February 7th, just twenty-four hours after we said goodbye to our son, my husband and I lay awake; the late night news droned on in front our sleepless eyes. We watched as cameras focused on a helicopter landing on the roof of University Medical Center in San Francisco. Physicians stepped out with a small ice chest, and the news commentator said, “A liver match has been found for the young girl who ingested the poisonous mushrooms.” We watched with disbelief as our son’s liver was carried in that small ice chest to be transplanted into another human being.
After hours of surgery, the news carried the excitement of the girl’s father. “Our prayers have been answered.” My husband spoke the words that hung in our hearts, “And our prayers were not.”
Their family joyously celebrated the tremendous gift of life for their only daughter, only sister. Our family tearfully grieved the inconceivable loss of our only son, only brother.
In the days and weeks that followed Scott’s death, I had nowhere to turn except to my faith in God and His precious Word. It was there that I could take my tears and found that He keeps them all in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). It was there that I felt Him draw near to me as I was brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
I continue to carry this treasure of darkness (Isaiah 45:3) and ask God to show me how I can use my loss for His glory. It is my prayer that through this blog, Redeeming the Future, I can share some of the lessons I learn as I walk this journey of grief; that I can companion others who may feel lost; and that together we can discover pathways through difficult times.

Scott William Redfern
November 23, 1979 – February 6, 1996


Tamara B said...

Bonnie, I'm so glad you have shared your blog with me. I love hearing from you and Tony, you both speak with such wisdom. I also love to hear people talk and share about my dear friend.

I knew about the girl getting Scott's liver and remember that in the news but never once thought of the impact it would have on your emotions and your heart. Now, almost 13 years later, I wonder if you guys ever connected with that family. And if not, why did you choose not to?

I love you dearly!

Bonnie said...

Thanks, Tammy, for your kind words. We love you too!
The short answer to your question is, No, we never connected with her family.
The more complete answer is, the CA Donor program requires both the recipient and the donor famiy to be willing to reveal identifying information to communicate with one another. Our desire to hear from each individual/family about the life-saving gift on Scott's organs has been on record with the CA Donor program since February, 1996.
After some pressure from the CA Donor program, we did receive (about five years ago) an anonymous letter of gratitude from the individual who received Scott's heart.
Speaking only from our own experience, hearing how our decision to donate Scott's organs impacted their lives would be wonderful. Their words would, in essence, redeem the future by adding value to our loss.
Interestingly, one of my favorite movies is "Return to Me". It portrays the struggle some recipients may have responding to the donor family.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bonnie...I have known Scott's story for some time, but was so moved, by reading it again on your blog. I had not heard about the little girl who had eatten the mushrooms. I realized I only knew half of Scott's story! What do I say...how can I thank you for the gift of life you gave to other families. We WATCHED the helicopter land on the roof of the hospital. We SAW the little igloo carrying the little heart that would be placed in our precious Lincoln! We were overwhelmed by the implications of it all. And Bonnie, we cannot look at our Lincoln, without remembering and thanking in our hearts, the parents of the little girl, who in their deepest, darkest moment of grief....gave...and our Lincoln lived!!!
I want to tenderly thank you...when words seem so inadequate...
Much love to you and Tony,

Robin Yockey said...

I recall seeing my son Travis's pale face running in to tell me about Scott's accident on campus. I remember the prayers and Travis's next soccer game, and how sad the team was in losing fellow player Scott. But in awe I watch his parents, as God uses them in mighty ways, and as they seek to help others and glorify Christ's name. You are evidence of the Lord's peace, goodness, and many other adjectives to follow....

Steph D said...

Bonnie, again I am moved to tears by your sharing Scott's story. It feels good to think of and remember him, my fellow classmate... his Bronco, his mischievous grin, his regular high school boy-ness :), his humble manner, soccer player, biking, how he struggled with dyslexia, his heart for missions and the lost, his love for people and Jesus... even though there is pain in the retelling of the story, there is richness in keeping .

I recently thanked you for your current ministry in which you allow God to work through you, but I also am so thankful for the memory I have of you and Tony speaking at chapel after Scott's death. Your vulnerability and choice to trust in God as your world was turned upside down will continually remain with me. I think of Scott whenever I sit at the picnic bench and table under the gazebo memorial at Immanuel as well. As another friend of yours stated, words are inadequate to express my feelings and gratitude. Much love to you- I look forward to hearing you speak and lead us in prayer and remembering on Wed. evening!

Sharon said...

I lost my son during birth on his due date a few months ago, his heart saved another babies life a few hours after he was born. Reading your story was an encouragement to me

Debie Noorigian said...

Bonnie & Tony, I'm so glad you have shared your blod with others. In our family we remember Scott so clearly and remember when Scott went camping with us to Shaver. And Jeff's was in shop when the accident happened. I remember the school ofter any counseling to those that were there. Bonnie and Tony, God choose you to be Scott's earthly parents for this. Scott's life changed alot of kids at Immanuel for many years, all the talks that you shared, especially with Scott's class and the schollarship.Scott was more mature than the kids in his class and the maturity and his wisdom was truly God. Also thank you for sharing the story about the little girl who received Scott's liver. Thank you for keeping Scott alive in all of our lives that know Scott and God has blessed you & Tony over & over, and three of those blessings are your 3 beautful grandkids and a beautful daugther,Amy. Thank you Bonnie & Tony. Our family loves you!

Unknown said...

Your story blessed me. Thank you for sharing it and chronicling your process of healing through this.

With love,

From My Mountain View [dot] com

Anonymous said...

Tony & Bonnie....

I have not forgotten Scott's Legacy: I will be sharing his story on the anniversary of his passing into the heavenly realms w/ each of my classes today. We will never forget.

With my love---Coach Hayward

Unknown said...

Tony & Bonnie,
I only recently heard about your son's story when I met Tony in Cardiac Rehab to invite him to the Mended Hearts meeting we were having the following day, the thing is I never knew what I was in for. As I'm talking to Tony with a mask on (I had a heart transplant 6 months ago), I invited Tony to attend the meeting, and instead I heard a story that is so close and dear to my heart. As I said earlier I had a heart transplant on April 18th and this is the first time I've got to hear the other side of a donor's gift. I can't even fathom what you and your family were going through during this trial. As a parent my heart goes out to you, and as a recipient I couldn't thank you enough for your unselfish acts of kindness. I hope and pray all is well with your family and that your not only able to attended a Mended Hearts meeting, but also share your son Scott's story, as well as yours. I know that I got so much out of it and I'm sure that not only other transplant patients but all in attendance. May God continue to bless you and all that you have done.
Sincerely, Dianna Amberg