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?

%d bloggers like this: