Give to Live: How My Son Saved 54 Lives

Author: Amy Deubler Foy, Mother of former UMC patient Cameron Dice 

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On Sunday, March 11, my son, Cameron Dice, was riding his 4-wheeler across a piece of land near our home until it flipped over on him and crushed his skull. He was brought by ambulance to a small hospital in Franklinton, LA and from there, he was air lifted by helicopter to University Medical Center New Orleans. Upon arrival, he was on a ventilator and the outlook did not look very promising, but still, we prayed for a miracle to happen.

He arrived at UMC Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. Their amazing nurses and doctors worked on him to try and save his life. But, unfortunately, the damage to his brain was too severe and there was little that they could do. On Monday night, March 12 at 7:28 pm, at the age of 19, he was legally pronounced dead.

My family and I made the decision prior to the final apnea test that would determine whether his brain had any activity:

If Cameron did not have any chance at survival, we wanted him to be an organ donor. 

This was a decision that Cameron had made not long before his accident –  just 2 years prior at the DMV when he received his driver’s license.

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The decision to save other’s lives when yours cannot be saved seems, to me, to be the only decision. I stand firm in this decision even more so now after Cameron’s death. Why would you not want to save someone else’s child, mother, father, brother, sister, etc.?

Cameron becoming an organ donor was not only the right decision for others, but it also gave me 50 more hours to hold his hand, kiss him, stroke his hair and tell him everything I needed to tell him before he was taken into surgery.

Those 4 days were the absolute hardest days I have ever experienced, but that little bit of extra time has made the pain of all this a little easier. I am so grateful that I had those days to just hold my baby and tell him goodbye.

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If Cameron would have been on the other side, needing a transplant for an organ to save his life, I would hope and pray that others would give the gift of life to save my baby.

My Cameron, my angel, now lives in 54 different people between his organs, bones, skin, muscles, tendons, veins, arteries, etc. 

While he was here on earth, he touched so many people’s hearts and lives and now that he has passed on, he still is doing the same.

I cannot explain how proud I am that my baby is truly a hero to these people that now have a chance at life because of Cameron. There is little to no comfort that anyone can provide to a mother that loses their child, but knowing that my baby is still around me physically walking around in all of these people helps tremendously.

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If you are an organ or tissue recipient, please – I beg you – reach out to the family who saved your life.  I pray for the day to meet the people that my child now lives through!

There is no reason, in my eyes, for people to not be an organ donor.  If you can save another person from going through the pain that my family is enduring, why wouldn’t you?

The people with LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) were absolutely amazing.  Everyone was very considerate of me and my family the whole time while they prepared Cameron for his surgery.  They have kept in touch with me and have offered me support with their kind words.

I just received a letter from them giving me the sex and age bracket that Cameron’s major organs went to. I pray to meet every single one of them!!

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April is National Donate Life Month, which honors organ, tissue and eye donors and their loved ones. One organ donor can save the lives of up to nine people.  

At University Medical Center, our dedicated professionals have helped, in coordination with LOPA, to save the lives of over 95 organ recipients in the past year.

Please join us on April 16 at 1:30 p.m. near the flagpole at UMC’s Galvez Street entrance for a LOPA flag-raising and butterfly release to honor the silent heroes at UMC and their families.

Season’s Grievings

Author: Sonia Malhotra, MD, MS, FAAP, and Director of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care at University Medical Center New Orleans

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The Holiday Season is one full of celebration, joy and gathering for so many.  But for many individuals, especially those living with a serious illness, the Holiday Season can seem like more of a burden than a joy. Coordinating appointments, making sure there are enough supplies to last through days when pharmacies and stores are closed, and contacting healthcare providers are only some of the challenges those living with a serious illness have to face.

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Additionally, the Holidays often bring about stressors, anxiety and grief over the inability to travel and the loss of other abilities, the diagnosis of a serious illness, and often the loss of loved ones.

Palliative Medicine is the interdisciplinary care of patients with serious illness such as cancer, blood disorders, heart disease, neurologic disease, liver and kidney disease and advanced lung disease to name a few.

It provides this level of care in 4 areas:

  1. Pain and Symptom Management, including managing symptoms that affect the quality of life
  2. Communication about Healthcare Decisions, Plans of Care and Coordination of Care
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Support for Patients and their Caretakers
  4. Hospice, End-of-Life Decision Making and Support, and Bereavement Services

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November marked the celebration of National Hospice & Palliative Medicine month. 

However, each month in the life of our patients LIVING with serious illness brings awareness of the challenges and struggles we need to celebrate. Serious illness and Palliative Medicine are NOT about end-of-life care. Rather, Palliative Medicine and its care of the seriously ill focuses on finding ways to ensure that our patients and their caretakers are LIVING with the best quality of life they possibly can.2017-NationalHospiceMonth_Logo

So how can patients and their families survive this Holiday season with a Serious Illness?

  1. Establish Priorities: Choose the Holiday traditions and activities that have the most meaning to you. Create and prioritize activities based on your state of mind and energy level.
  2. Depend on Loved Ones to Fill In: This can be especially tough for those who like to do things independently. However, it is important to be realistic about what you will have energy to do. Ask for assistance, take assistance when it is given and be clear about your own limits.
  3. Plan Ahead: This is especially important if you have dietary restrictions while undergoing treatments. Talk to your healthcare team about rescheduling treatments that may leave you feeling under-energized during important family gatherings or traditions.
  4. Be Selective with Your Time: Do things and be with the people who energize you, not those who deplete you. Don’t feel the pressure to fulfill obligations, do the things that matter the most
  5. Acknowledge and Share Your Feelings: It is okay to feel sad, anxious and even angry. Give yourself the permission to have these feelings and share them with trusted loved ones and healthcare professionals. Use support groups and online communities as often or as little as you need.

The Holidays can be a stressful time for those living with a serious illness and those caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Keep in mind that nurturing yourself and allowing others to nurture you will help in the celebration and reflection of these times.

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