Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

The month of June, what does it mean to you? Is it the remembrance of the D-Day Invasion in Normandy on June 6, Flag Day on June 14 or even the day we honor our fathers on the third Sunday in June?

For me, June 20-22 is etched in my memory forever. June 20, 1997 was the last time I heard my daughter Lindsay tell me “I love you” and the last time I got a hug from her. It was the last time I saw her blue-green eyes and her beautiful smile. Little did I know, 3 hours after telling her bye, she would be involved in a horrific car accident that would take her life.

Lindsay was my first daughter, the second of my three children. She was born May 22, 1981. She was a little sister to Ryan and a big sister to Rachel. She was a beautiful young lady. She was spunky and full of life. She lived life to its fullest. She wasn’t perfect and sometimes found trouble if it didn’t find her first. 

Just 4 years earlier, my kid’s father tragically died in a work related accident while working out of state. Lindsay struggled with the death of her dad. She stated on many occasions that she just wanted to be with her dad. Three weeks before her death, she told my friend that she wasn’t going to live to see the age of 25. The night before the accident, I remember her sitting on the couch crying. I asked her what was wrong and she just shook her head and said she didn’t know. Before she went to bed that night, she told my nephew and her brother that she knew she wasn’t going to live much longer. She knew before we did that her life on this earth was going to end.

Lindsay and my nephew were headed to Dallas to spend the weekend with my cousin. Their trip ended just south of Caddo, Oklahoma. For unknown reasons, the car ended up crossing the center median and they were hit by a semi going 70 mph. The impact of the semi hitting the car caused the car to split in half. The seat’s belt broke and Lindsay was found just 3 feet behind the car. My nephew was thrown 65 feet. He had asphalt burns to his face, hand and leg. He had a broken hand and a large horseshoe cut on the back of his head. Thankfully, he lived, but lives with survivor’s guilt.

There were two off-duty EMT’s who drove upon the accident and immediately started CPR on Lindsay. Her heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital in Durant, Oklahoma. We did not find out about the accident until 3:30 pm. The doctor informed my husband that Lindsay had no brain activity and they wanted to transfer to a hospital in Sherman, Texas because they had a trauma unit. Before they transferred her to Sherman, they performed surgery to repair a tear in her liver. That trip to Sherman was the longest trip of my life. I knew things weren’t good, but I prayed and prayed. I asked God to watch over Lindsay and to help me make decisions that I knew I was going to have to make.

It was 9:00 pm when we finally arrived. The moment I walked in the room to see Lindsay, I saw that she was at peace. She was on life support and they had shaved part of her hair in order to insert a probe to measure the pressure on her brain. As the ICU nurse began to explain all the numbers on the monitor, it showed the pressure on her brain was 110 and was rising. I asked what was normal and with a hesitation in her voice and tears in her eyes, she said 8-10. Once again, I knew things were not good. I continued to pray and as the night wore on, the pressure continued to rise to 150. To look at Lindsay, you would think she was just sleeping. Visibly, you could see a bruise on her cheek, a puncture wound on her hand and one of her toes had been severed, but it had been repaired.   We talked to her and prayed for her through the night.

The next day they ran a series of test to see if she could breathe on her own. She could not. They checked to see if there was any blood flow to her brain. There was not.

We knew then that the Lindsay we knew and loved so much was already with our Lord and Savior. At that time, we talked with her doctor and made the decision to donate her organs. Southwest Transplant Alliance in Dallas was contacted. Two nurses made the trip to Sherman to discuss with us the process of organ donation. We chose to donate her heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver.

I had never felt so much peace, feeling of the arms of Jesus wrapped around me, as I did when I found out that there was nothing more they could do.  I remember talking to our pastor on the phone and telling him I had peace, because I knew where she was.

On Sunday morning, June 22, everyone went in to tell Lindsay how much she was loved and we would see her when we get to Heaven. I was left in the room by myself with Lindsay. I talked to her, prayed for her and then began to sing to her a Point of Grace song, “God Loves People More Than Anything”, except I sang “God Loves Lindsay More Than Anything”. I sang it over and over again just so she would know how much God really loved her and He was taking her away from all the heartache she was enduring in her earthly life. My husband told me I wasn’t really saying goodbye, but “I’ll see you later”, because we will see her again in Heaven. 

When I walked out of her room, the nurses were crying with me. I went back to the waiting room. One of the nurses came out to tell us that they pronounced her brain death at 9:45am and that is when they began harvesting her organs. We started our journey back to Coweta without our Lindsay.

We knew God had a plan from the very beginning. We believe God placed the off duty EMT’s in the exact spot on Highway 69 at the time Lindsay needed them to keep her alive. We know a 30 year-old woman received both of Lindsay’s lungs. Her transplant was needed because of a heart defect. Lindsay’s liver went to a 49 year-old man who had been disabled for eight years because of an unknown reason as to why he was in liver failure. Lindsay’s pancreas and one kidney went to a 46 year-old woman with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Lindsay’s other kidney went to a 32 year-old woman who had kidney failure due to hardening of the tiny vessels in her kidneys.

The most precious gift given was Lindsay’s heart. Her heart went to Wayne Battles. At the time of the heart transplant, Wayne was 55 and he had a birthday a month after his transplant. Wayne will be 76 in July!

Wayne’s story began 4 years prior to his transplant. That is when the doctors told him that he would need a new heart. He and his wife starting praying for their donor and their family if God’s plan included a new heart. 4 years prior for our family was when we were given the heartbreaking news that the father of my children had died. Wayne went into the hospital April 29, 1997. Through all of our visits, we found out that Wayne had gotten so bad they took him off the transplant list. But, on May 21, his numbers started improving and he was put back on the transplant list on May 22, Lindsay’s birthday.

In the beginning, all of the correspondence was anonymous and went through Southwest Transplant Alliance. It took me quite a bit of time to write back to them after receiving the very first letter, but finally completed a letter and a small photo album of Lindsay to send to them. When we received another letter after they celebrated his 1 year anniversary with his new heart, I could tell they never received my letter. After seeing a partial phone number and a church name, we could tell they lived in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My sister started her own investigation and finally found Sharon. After a brief conversation with her, she called me and told me she found Lindsay’s heart recipient and to be expecting a call. Many tears were shed when we talked. We discovered that my letter and photo album were sent to the transplant hospital. Sharon made a trip to the hospital to retrieve them and then she gave Wayne the letter and album that evening.

They made a trip to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma on September 19, 1998 so we could meet for the first time. I remember laying my hand upon his chest to feel Lindsay’s heartbeat. On August 13, 2014 was a monumental day for us. They surprised us by opening up a box which held a stethoscope. I was able to hear Lindsay’s heartbeat for the first time. 

Many tears were shed that evening. I have been able to listen each time we have met since then. We continue to see each other at least once a year. We have received letters and cards on every holiday from Wayne and Sharon for 20 years. The bond we have developed is unbreakable. Although, we have never heard from any of other the other recipients, I pray each one is doing well after their transplants.

In all of this, I am so thankful that God has given me the strength and courage to live beyond the accident. I know that because Lindsay believed in God and was saved by His grace, she has her place in Heaven. I am looking forward to the day when I am reunited with her in Heaven. I am thankful for the support I have received over the last 20 years from my husband, my son and daughter and their families, my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and the rest of my extended family.

Don’t take your organs to Heaven…Heaven knows we need them here.

-Sherri Valder

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

A Little Thought from Heather:

Back in November we had the honor of having Courtney Allen share the beautiful story of her brave little boy’s journey to a heart transplant, in Guest Post: A Thankful Heart. When I asked Courtney to write our guest post about Caysen, I had great hope of Sherri sharing Lindsay’s story, the story of a donor family.

This story is close to my own heart. For one, as long as I can remember I’ve personally understood the importance of organ donation. I would not be alive today if it weren’t for tissue donation. Families made the decision to donate their loved one’s tissue, the largest organ of our body and because of cadaver skin, and the donation of countless blood donors, I had the chance to live.

But Lindsay’s story is more than a story to me. I knew Lindsay.

School had not been pleasant for me after our accident. I experienced challenges in finding acceptance and security in returning to school. All of my elementary school years were spent bobbling back-and-forth between surgeries, doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. I just never settled back with my peers.

I was so scared, but I finally took a leap and changed schools in the 8th grade.

There was this girl in my English class. She had naturally curly blond hair, like me. She was outgoing. She lit up a room. Everyone was drawn to her personality. Her smile was more than a facial expression. It beamed from her heart. And this girl WELCOMED ME from the get-go. And to top it off, we shared the same middle name. Lindsay Renee and Heather Renee.

The song her mama sat at her bed and sang to her, “God Loves People More than Anything,” her family blessed me with the honor of singing at her memorial service. Even today, twenty years after her passing, I carry such gratitude for being able to do that little something for her, because what she did for me played a part of shifting my intimidated, insecure teenage world looking for acceptance to one filled with enthusiasm and joy each time I walked into a class we shared.

Lindsay had a gift of making other people feel valued. And I find it to be completely reflective of her life that she gave such insurmountable value even in her death.

Lindsay– a blessing to my 8th grade self. Life gifts treasured forever.

When you think of organ donation, when you consider the commitment to give, think of precious Caysen who has a life today because of a donor, and think of Lindsay who continues to touch others, from those of us who knew and loved her, to those who never even met her. Twenty years later, her life is touching lives.  

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The Meadows in Massachusetts

Monday afternoon I grabbed my computer along with one of the piles in the office and set down at the kitchen table to start paying bills. This is usually a task tackled in the office, but that place looked too scary. Piles and piles of papers had accumulated over the last three weeks, and I only had the focus for one at a time.

We use Excel to record our transactions in our check register and we use our Discover card for nearly every purchase we make. So when it comes to balancing, I have two statements to balance, our Discover statement and then our bank statement. Dave would greatly disapprove of this process, but it’s worked for us for about twelve years now. We use our Discover card as many others use their bank debit card (so we don’t have one of those). Every single charge goes into our check register, so when the statement comes in, the money is there and we have accrued some nice cash back rewards for items we needed to buy anyway. The only downside, is again, we have two statements to balance, but utilizing Excel, we can easily filter those Discover transactions and typically complete the process proficiently.

I grabbed my green highlighter and started marking off line-by-line the items recorded. It quickly takes me back to recent memories. The joy stirs around inside my heart as I recall them. There was the charge from the theater when we went as a family to see Disney’s Inside Out on our anniversary. There was the charge from the department store when Brooklyn and I went on a little shopping spree. Then my mind and my heart had the joy to revisit several places, like Dave’s Diner, Plimouth Plantation, Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café, Fenway Park and The Duck Tour, oh and how could I fail to mention, Dunkin’ Donuts, as our good friends refer to as “Dunkies”.

It was more than touristy destinations. Those transactions indicated where we went and what we saw. Those places represent a trip that the Lord took us on to change us and grow us in who He wants us to be and what He has called us to do.

This can’t be chalked up to coincidence. How insignificant it seemed to Brandon and me at times that we felt we needed to change our domain name. And honestly, I searched my heart before the Lord repeatedly if it was a spirit of pride fueling our efforts to acquire it. I mean, you can see why, it’s my name. I was concerned for the possibility of being self-absorbed.

Then there was that roadblock. Yes, heathermeadows.com was available, but after four months of offers to purchase, the owner thought he was dealing with a real estate group and threw out a whopping $10k price tag. With my own soul searching, and then this news, it just seemed that the Lord was directing us away from it. Still yet, our spirit felt otherwise. He has called us to share our story. So share it. And share it we did. Doing the very basic task He called us to do, resulted in heathermeadows.com not being bought, but being given, and not only a domain given, but an opportunity given, to travel 1600 miles away to do what God has purposed us to do, share our story.

Brandon and I pressed in, seeking the Lord for what He specifically wanted us to share in our time in Massachusetts. We knew He had orchestrated this opportunity. Our desire was to be used by Him to not only share our story, but to speak into hearts a message He knew each one needed.

Every moment there was like Christmas morning; many gifts slowly unwrapped, revealing His love, goodness and the excitement of His plans.

Brooklyn and I had a delightful Saturday morning with the women of the East Freetown Congregational Christian Church. We sat around the table and enjoyed good food, loving interactions, and the sweet presence of the Lord as we got into His Word for a devotional and prayer. The women were personable, relational, transparent, humble, and had the hearts of a servant. Did we all really just meet? It didn’t seem like it. I was among friends, sisters in this family of God.

Never did we feel like visitors. We were welcomed in and met with the sweetest hospitality. We had the opportunity to participate in Joel and Lori’s traditional Saturday afternoon lunch with their best friends from high school, John and Kevin. The evening held another treat, getting to feed horses, (and a cute donkey who is in love with his neighbor pen mare), grill out eating some more amazing food, and fellowship with fellow followers of Jesus all hosted by Brad and Christine, who make you feel like you’re one of the family. Really. I mean one of the family. Christine wanted me to let her do my laundry, and let me tell you, she was serious. She also had Brooklyn over a few days later and coordinated a trial ride for her through a State Forest.

We were received in such warmth and such love. We were shown much generosity, rarely able to pay for our own meals.

Here we came to give. We were asking the Lord to pour us out to others. You’ve read how much we received, but that was just in the first two days. There’s more.

God graciously anointed the message. His Word was delivered with passion, conviction, and love for His people. There was an assurance that we were used as He desired. But I’ve learned something. When we walk in obedience to Him, we’re always going to be getting more. I was prepared to minister to the hearts of His people. I didn’t anticipate how greatly they would minister to mine. I went ready to serve, ready to be used, ready to give, but I got far more than I gave.

There was the mother of the young boy who was born with a congenital heart defect. It touched my heart the memories she shared with me, and the chance to meet her now healthy little boy who stood beside her. Then there was the missionary who shared her heartbeat and passion for Japan with me. A blessing to hear the reports of how God has provided for her to minister.

A special song was beautifully delivered specifically in ministry to us. A young couple visited with me after service, sharing their desperate journey to find a kidney. We had prayer and shortly after I received a message from Chuck, “We know God has plans for us. We plan on sharing with the church on Sunday.” An ultrasound photo said it all.

There was also a visitor, who came up to Brandon after service and explained that he was late for his church, and decided to pull in for service. He didn’t have time to speak to me, but wanted Brandon to know how the message spoke to him. With his hospital bracelet still on his wrist, he explained to Brandon that his baby was in the NICU and how timely the words were that he came to receive.

Call it a reason to retreat

I got some dreams that are bigger than me

I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life

It is so crazy to believe

That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach

Called me to waters a little to deep

Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need

You keep making me see

It’s way beyond me

Anything that I got the strength to do

In over my head keeps me countin’ on You

I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot

Tradin’ it all for the plans You got

It is so crazy to believe

You take me to the place where I know I need You

Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own

And the Lord I know, I know I need You

So take me to Your great…

Take me to Your great unknown.

~Beyond Me- Toby Mac Publishing: © 2014 Achtober Songs

The Meadows went to Massachusetts and God did some pretty awesome things in us while we were there. To be honest, we got gut punched the minute we departed. In the process of catching our breath, we know there is great opposition for us to have more experiences like the one in Massachusetts.

It’s way beyond me. I’m definitely the underdog. I’m certainly aware of my need. And I know that whatever I can’t handle on my own, He can. And I’m brave enough and determined enough to pursue whatever that is. I want Him to take it all.

In freedom we live

As one we cry out

You carried the cross

You died and rose again

My God, I’ll only ever give my all

~Hillsong United- Take It All

But each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing His songs, praying to God who gives me life.     Psalm 42:8 NLT

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The Gift of Life

There are pains I can’t imagine.  Sometimes my thoughts wander that direction.  Sometimes I question myself.  Would I be strong?  Could I endure?  Is my faith secure?

One such pain is that of losing a baby.  I remember the emptiness I experienced when we miscarried our second baby.  We had tried for eight months, and after seven weeks of pregnancy, we miscarried.  I had this sense of failure, of guilt and responsibility.  Brandon and I had anticipated having that baby before we even had a confirmed test.  We grieved the life we would never know, the baby we would never hold, the little cry we would never hear.  It was a loss that changed me.  It was a loss that gave me a glimpse to a pain I can’t imagine, carrying a baby, delivering and burying such a small body.

It grips my heart to know and see families endure this pain.  Last week I had the privilege of sharing a time of remembrance and reflection with families who have suffered the loss of their baby.  Each year the labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care unit staff at Saint Francis Hospital holds a service in memory of our babies lost.   I was honored to share the closing at our eighteenth annual Angel Tree Memorial Service.  I sought the Lord for words of hope, comfort and peace.  He was faithful to provide, but it was the time during the service when the families shared their stories that testified to the hope, comfort, peace, strength, endurance and faith only one who has walked that road can share.

A few days before the service, I read an insert in the Tulsa World featuring Life Share Oklahoma stories.  The front story was “Pistol Annie,” written by her mother, Abbey Ahern.  This family had remarkable faith and bravery.  Their precious baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, and they made a decision to give life through her precious life.  Their baby girl passed away 14 hours and 58 minutes after her birth, and became the first newborn infant organ donor in the state of Oklahoma.  Abbey shares their journey through her blog, Tomorrow Will Be Kinder.  There she quotes, Angie Smith, “I gave my deepest hurt to the Father who wanted nothing less than every bit of it.”

It is true that a mother carries her children in her heart forever; however short a time they are given.  Selah sings a song in memory of member Todd Smith’s baby titled, “Audrey’s Song.”  The lyrics reflect the faith and assurance these families display.

“I will carry you.

While your heart beats here

Long beyond the empty cradle

Through the coming years

I will carry you

All my life

And I will praise the One Who’s chosen me

To carry you”

Personally, I know how great of an impact these babies make from the moment they enter our world.  Each staff member who steps in to provide care is touched by that life, and we are deeply grateful to the families who allow us to share those moments with them.

As we enter this Christmas season, and scurry around finding the perfect gift, let us reflect on the One who came to give us the most perfect gift.  Life.  His gift is eternal and His gift gives us the peace to know that one day these families will be reunited where there will be no more pain, or sorrow, or suffering; only life; never ending.

visit www.lifeshareregistry.com to register to be a donor

Audrey’s Song:  (Angie Smith shares their story on her blog at angiesmithonline.com)

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