Three Magnificient Examples of Love

by Joe Martin

The Evening Sun
Saturday, August 1, 1992

Down through the ages great philosophers, poets and writers of all persuasions have tried mightily to explain what love really means. They have equated love with just about everything on this planet and in the heavens. One might think there isn't anything left to describe the word "love".

There are literally hundreds of definitions of love. Love of spouse, of family, of God and country, to name a few. Recently I met two people who I believe put into practice, not just words, what really constitutes love.

Unfortunately, as so frequently happens, tragedy was the springboard that prompted their act of love.

On July 5th Paul and Dorothy Miller Shriver of White Church Road in Adams County were called upon to make a decision. In the early morning hours on that day their 27 year old son, Douglas, had suffered severe brain damage in an automobile accident and was lying comatose in York Hospital.

As they sat awaiting news of their son's condition (they had been told that Douglas had severe head injuries), a representative from the Delaware Valley Transplant Program approached them and asked if they would be willing to let their son's vital organs be used for transplant.

They were told that their son had died, that his brain activity had ceased; his life had ended. They were told other lives were at the threshold and in dire need of healthy organs. Those lives could be saved. They were asked if they would permit the transplant procedures to occur.

Unless you have been in such a situation as were Mr. and Mrs. Shriver, I don't believe it possible to understand the stress, the introspection needed, or the courage it takes to utter the word yes or no, since whatever is said is so absolutely final. There is no turning back. No second thoughts.

Paul and Dorothy, after much soul searching, made their decision. Yes, they decided it best that others should live, rather than have Doug's organs deteriorate and go unused. Both were sure Doug himself, a very loving person, would want it that way.

As we talked I noticed Dorothy and Paul smiling slightly when it was suggested their son still lives, albeit in the bodies of others.

While Doug's soul rests peacefully in Heaven, his heart beats rhythmically in the chest of a 45 year old man who literally was snatched from death's door when Doug's heart was transplanted.

The Shrivers have been told the recipient had been waiting nine months for a new heart. Bypass surgery was no longer an option; a new heart was his last hope.

They were told the match was so good a respirator wasn't even needed and the man will probably be home by the time this is printed. That's love folks.

Then, there is the 34 year old lady who was diabetic and in desperate need of a kidney and pancreas. Today she is walking around with one of Doug's kidneys and his pancreas. She had been waiting for a miracle transplant for nearly five years. Now her life has been renewed.

What greater gift can one human give to his fellow man than the gift of a new life? That's love folks.

Then there is the case of the sightless individual who was the recipient of Doug's right cornea. Today, almost full sight has been restored. There is a little irony to this story.

Seems Doug's left eye was injured in an accident a few years back and there was the possibility that he could have been a candidate for a cornea transplant himself. So, here he is giving the sight from his only good eye so that another should once again see. Is renewed sight love? I think so!

If these aren't three magnificent examples of love, then I've never known what the word means.

As of this writing Paul and Dorothy have not received profiles of those who got Doug's other kidney or his liver, but they have been informed both organs were successfully transplanted and the recipients are doing well.

It should be noted here that at no time are either donor or recipient identified to one another. Mr. and Mrs. Shriver were given profiles of three persons who received Doug's vitals, but not their names or addresses. This is done to protect both families from any possible problems which might occur. However, should a recipient wish to thank a donor he or she can write an anonymous note or letter and it will be delivered by the Delaware Valley Transplant people.

I believe the matter of organ donation and transplant is a subject the general public is still in the dark about, and that's a pity. Both Paul and Dorothy admitted they never contemplated the matter until Doug's passing, but knowing what they do today, they too will offer their vitals for transplant if and when the time comes. With that thought in mind, I called Brian T. Hamilton, the transplant coordinator for the Delaware Valley Program in Philadelphia, and I learned a few facts you might find interesting.

For example: Donors can range in age from newborn to 70. Also, it is possible that one donor can help save the lives of as many as 25 transplant patients. Mr. Hamilton said his organization has received more than 5,000 vital organs since 1965, and all major religions support organ and tissue donation.

Mr. Hamilton pointed out that tissues such as eyes, skin, bone and heart valves can be donated up to 24 hours after death. He stressed that donation is considered only after death, after the brain ceases to function, but while the heart, liver, lungs kidneys and pancreas continue to function with artificial life supports.

Most importantly, he said, "It must be remembered that donations can only be considered after every effort has been made to save the patient's life."

The Conclusion

To conclude the Douglas Shriver story it should be said he was a farm boy at heart and he loved nothing more than helping his Dad and Mom with the chores on the family's 96 acre spread.

He also will be sadly missed by his little daughter, Jodi, as well as Mom and Dad and his two sisters, Karen Tawney and Cheryl Slaybaugh, and his brother, Scott. Doug will also be remembered as a guy who cared about people. He enjoyed helping those who needed a hand.

All his friends and loved ones will always know that even in death he still lives, albeit in the bodies of five other people, to whom he has given the gifts of life and sight. What greater memorial can there possibly be? Many years ago this epigram was penned: "After the verb 'To Love', 'To Help' is the most beautiful verb in the world!" How profound, and how well it suits Douglas Shriver and his Mom and Dad. Their love truly helped. God bless them. Pax vobiscum.

This article appears on TransWeb by permission of the author, Joe Martin. All rights reserved.

Return to Faith Taylor's story or read Joe Martin's other articles, "The Rest of a Remarkable Story on Love" and "People, Places, and Things" (four and a half years later).