A Life Everlasting

A Life Everlasting by Sarah Gray

Book: A Life Everlasting by Sarah Gray Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sarah Gray
miles away, for evaluation. Walker was sent to the NICU at UAMS for observation. Jodie went to recovery.
    Over the next two days, Jesse traveled back and forth between hospitals to see Jodie and baby Walker in one, and baby Eli in the other. On the second day, Jodie and Walker went home, and Eli went into surgery as expected to close up the hole in his spine.
    And then an MRI of Eli’s skull revealed what would change their lives forever. Eli had hydrocephalus damage, a herniated brain stem, and a Chiari 3 malformation, which is fatal. Eli would never be able to breathe on his own.
    Jodie and Jesse had been anticipating bringing home one healthy child and one with special needs. It began to register that they would not be bringing home two children, but one.
    They might not need that second car seat.
    â€œWould he be eligible for donation?” Jodie asked. She didn’tknow where the idea came from. No one in either her or Jesse’s family had ever received or donated organs or tissue. “I feel like the Lord just put the words in my mouth,” she recalled.
    A nurse practitioner offered to call ARORA—the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency. Reps from ARORA began research to determine whether he would be a suitable candidate. After a few hours, the McGinleys got the call verifying that Eli could make a gift of his aortic and pulmonary valves.
    Surrounded by their families and their pastor, the McGinleys were with baby Eli when he was taken off the ventilator. The doctors had said that Eli would die shortly thereafter, but he survived another thirty-one hours. The medical staff arranged for Eli to be transported back to UAMS so he could be reunited with his brother, Walker, in the NICU. As the two babies lay side by side in their incubator, the pink returned to Eli’s cheeks and a slight smile crossed his lips.
    Jodie got to hold her baby and tell him how much she loved him. In his final hours, as his oxygen level started to decrease, Jodie whispered in his ear, “Come back to me. Just come back to me,” over and over. She was asking him for reassurance that their decision to donate was the right one. Eli McGinley passed away in his mother’s arms on August 8; he was five days old.
    On Walker’s first birthday, Jodie contacted ARORA for an update. Eli’s heart valves had been sent to CryoLife, a biomedical company and tissue bank in Kennesaw, Georgia. Founded in 1984 with just six employees in a lab near the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, CryoLife was, by the time the McGinleys donated, at the forefront of cryopreservation technology, specializing in the low-temperature preservation of heart valves for children born with congenital heart defects. It is now an enormous, multinational company with more than five hundred employees and conducts business in more than seventy-five countries around the world.Somewhere in its sprawling headquarters, Eli’s valves were still waiting for a recipient.
    A few days later, Jodie was under the weather, which she attributed to being sad about the first anniversary of Eli’s death. Nine months later, on April 8, 2011, she gave birth to a little girl, Ellie Reese. Jodie calls her daughter her “rainbow baby.”
    Four months after that, on Walker’s second birthday, Jodie reached out to ARORA again and was told that Eli’s aortic valve had traveled north to a hospital in Maine, but there was no additional information.
    It wasn’t until December 1, 2014, that the McGinleys finally received an email from CryoLife telling them that Eli’s aortic valve had been transplanted into a little girl the previous January. “I knew there was another mother out there who would not have to feel what I had felt. Just to know a piece of Eli was out there living took a big burden off my heart,” Jodie said.
    Jodie was busy preparing for a trip to Pasadena, where a floral portrait, or “floragraph,” of Eli would be

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