A Miracle For One Family, Heartache For Others

Back in December Zack Dunlop’s devastated parents were faced with the horrible decision of either keeping their son hooked up to life-support equipment or pulling the plug and letting his body follow his brain into death. He’d been declared brain dead, all of the tests showing no blood flow to his brain after an ATV accident, and his parents eventually decided to let him go. But they wanted to honor his wishes and have his organs donated.

So a helicopter was dispatched to pick up his heart. Then, as his family said their final goodbyes, his cousin (a nurse) ran a knife blade along his foot. And he moved it. They pressed into his fingernail bed. He pulled away his arm.

His family was shocked, and hopeful, and guarded. The doctors were dumbfounded. But how much brain damage was there?

Some, but not much. Since that day 21-year-old Zack Dunlop has made extraordinary strides in his recovery. He’s walking, talking, ready to drive. He still has some issues and is still in therapy, but he’s alive. And vibrant. And alive.

I’m so very happy for Zack, and his family. They truly got a miracle. The doctors cannot explain what happened. As Husband and I watched his appearance on the Today Show and heard his story I got tears in my eyes. Husband noticed my reaction and said, “That’s great, isn’t it?”, assuming my tears were for Zack and his miracle.

But my tears weren’t for Zack, or for his family. My crazy brain was thinking about the many families who had walked in Zack’s family’s shoes. Families who decided to end life support for their child and had no such miracle, and experienced the mixture of grief and guilt that I can only imagine anyone would feel in the aftermath of that decision.

What were they thinking when hearing Zack’s miraculous story? How many were second-guessing their decision? What if…? The unthinkable.

Chances are that there was no hope, no missed miracle for their child (or husband or mother, etc., but I was thinking at that moment only in terms of parent and child). But now, in addition to their grief, they’ll have a whole new level of guilt.

That is possibly the only pain worse than losing your child, I imagine.

And who the heck needs that?

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4 Responses to “A Miracle For One Family, Heartache For Others”

  1. Emily Says:

    I haven’t heard the story but just reading this brought tears to my eyes. Having lost a family member after being faced with the grueling decision to remove life support, I can only imagine the pain my loved one went through making that choice and the grief he may feel still wondering “if only” he’d held on longer.

  2. Terri Says:

    My 20 year old son “died” the beginning of February of similar injuries. When I read the article on the internet about Zack I was shocked and sickened. Did my son scream inside his head at me that he was still there? And why after being declared brain dead, when he was on life support waiting also for the organ harvest team to arrive did the ICU nurse shoo us out of the room because his blood pressure was rising? I have to not think about the “what if” or I will drive myself mad.

  3. BeThisWay Says:

    Terri,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

    I wish you peace.

  4. TerryToo Says:

    Sorry for all the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends who must now live on without their loved-ones who was someone’s opinion deemed ‘brain dead’ and suffered a most horrendous true death of being cut and pulled apart while really very much alive. There is much evil doing in hospitals nowadays because organ transplantation has become big money for the ones involved – except the donor and the ones who truly care about them. Best advice I can think of: 1. know that “brain death” and it’s term was created for the sole purpose of organ donation 2. with time most people can wake up from coma and recover 3. don’t believe everything you see (cat scans) 4. know what drugs they have your loved one on 5. get copies of every medical sheet while your loved one is in the hospital 6. bring a lawyer to the hospital to help you from day 1 and especially when the hospital allows the organ procurement team to push you for consent. If Terri got the medical records she might be in for the ultimate shock of her life – I WAS. It is best to live in TRUTH then in a LIE which they have created for the world.


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