Seven weeks ago, something amazing happened. Our donor family found us.
We always wondered who they were, where they were, if it was a little boy or girl who had given Addison the most precious gift of life, how the family was coping. We did not think we would ever know much about them because our transplant social worker had warned us most donor families wish to remain anonymous.
Through the power of the internet, our donor family found Addison’s blog and reached out to connect with us.
When I first read through Felicia Sullenger’s messages, I thought it must be a hoax. It just seemed unreal. It was the morning of Addison’s big heart celebration on May 19 and we were busy with last-minute preps. We were already excited and emotional about the day so it just seemed to be too much of a coincidence. Aaron and I kept reading the messages over and over. We googled Felicia’s name and found a news story from April on a Reno, Nevada TV station. I got goosebumps and my hands were shaking. Felicia’s sweet little baby girl Audrey was three days old when she stopped breathing. She lived only six days. Felicia did not hesitate when asked if she would consider donating her daughter’s organs.
We knew then it was almost certain that Audrey’s heart went to Addison. The dates and location fit. With excitement and some trepidation, we emailed Felicia back.
She responded within half an hour. All she had known was that her little girl’s heart went to a baby in Canada who was less than a month old. She had decided to google “Canadian baby heart transplant 2011” and this blog came up immediately. Felicia was so excited and thrilled to finally “meet” the baby she and her family have been praying for this past year. We have been emailing back and forth since then, getting to know each other. There have been a lot of emotions on both our sides. It’s taken me a while to let my feelings settle down, which is why I haven’t written about it until today. But I feel like Felicia and her family are now part of our extended family.
Felicia is pregnant with her second baby – another daughter. She and her fiancee Lee have already named the baby Olivia. That is actually a name Aaron and I both liked when we were expecting! Their wedding is planned for this September 15 and Olivia is due to arrive less than three weeks after that. On top of all this wedding and baby-prep planning, Felicia is active promoting the importance of organ donation.
Here is Felicia and Audrey’s touching story:
My daughter was born April 30, 2011 weighing in at a healthy 7 lbs 7 ounces, as perfect as can be! Three days after she was born, I was at home feeding her. Usually she just fell asleep after she was done eating. I looked down to check on her and saw her still-warm body lifeless. Audrey had suddenly stopped breathing. At the time I was living with my parents. I ran to my mom’s room with Audrey screaming, “Something’s wrong!” I called 911 and as I waited for what seemed like forever for the ambulance, my dad had been on the phone being coached on how to do CPR on Audrey. He didn’t revive her but we later found out without his efforts Audrey’s heart would not be strong enough to be donated to another baby. The ambulance came and took Audrey away to the hospital.
It was four hours before I was released from my house by the cops and investigators from their routine questioning with child cases (thanks to all those irresponsible unloving parents who hurt their children, I had to wait unknowing whether or not my baby was ok). I get to the hospital to find out Audrey had been revived and her heart was beating on its own, but her lungs were no longer working and she was on a ventilator. The next three days were filled with many tests, all conclusive that Audrey had suffered oxygen deprivation and her brain was completely dead. She had about 70 friends and family come visit her, many that had never met her before.
On May 6, 2011 at 11:36 am, the doctors made their way into the room. About 20 of my family members had been camping out and they told us the devastating news. My first born beautiful daughter was in Heaven. They never did find out why Audrey stopped breathing.
Audrey Jade Hope Sullenger lived six short days but she forever lives in many hearts! I would like to point out how important organ donation is. After we got the news that there was nothing else they could do for her I was approached about the idea of organ donation. An absolute YES came out of my mouth. I have always been about other people and Audrey was also.
Audrey was born to save, that is my “why me”, “why Audrey”. Knowing that she helped other people is what keeps me going and is how I cope.
This beautiful baby’s strong spirit lives on. Her kidneys went to a 38-year old woman. Her heart went to Addison.
We think about Audrey and her family everyday. We are so grateful for their strength and selflessness. We promise to never take their gift for granted. We promise to enjoy every moment of life in honour of Audrey.
Elaine, Aaron and Addison