A family who lost a life waiting

Donor awareness has become an important cause in our family. Not because we are a donor family or a recipient family, but because we are a family who lost a life waiting. 

My son, MacKenzie, died February 16th while waiting for a heart transplant. MacKenzie was 13 years old. He was born with a heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, in other words, the left side of his heart never developed. After all 4 of his surgeries, he came out with flying colors. He was a normal little boy for 8 glorious years. The doctors were very pleased with the way his heart performed. You would have never known that MacKenzie was walking around with half of a heart. He was just like any other healthy child. He was our walking miracle.

Then in November of 2007, shortly after his 13th birthday, MacKenzie started to show signs of the flu. In early December, he was hospitalized and 2 days later the words that I never thought I would hear were said. Mackenzie’s heart was failing and he needed a transplant.

MacKenzie went on the list January 2, 2008, A1 status. He was critical. He was put on a ventilator almost immediately. We made up our own sign language and used a white board as a means of communication. Every time he woke up from a procedure he would feel his chest to see if he got his new heart and every time I had to tell him, “not yet, honey, but it’s coming, stay strong, be brave, yours will come”.

Days turned into weeks and MacKenzie wrote on his white board, ‘Mom, I know what I want to do with my life. I want to help others get their hearts.

While in the hospital, there was a young patient brought in after an accident and declared brain dead but when asked about donating his organs, his parents could not face that difficult decision and said “no”. MacKenzie died 1 week later. He was on the list for 7 weeks.

“MacKenzie, my sweet, blue eyed boy. You will be heard, not from your own voice but from the voices of your Mama, your Daddy, your sister, your brother, your aunts, your uncles, your many cousins, your Nanas, your Papas, other family and friends. We will do every thing we can do to increase donor awareness so no more families will have to endure life with the pain that we feel every moment with your absence. We will be your voice…and we will be LOUD…” 

Written by Kristen Dorn, MacKensie’s mother


MacKenzie’s family at the 2009 Annual Donate Life Walk

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