April is National Donate Life Month and like so many other families, my family too has been affected by organ donation.
This is a subject that we gave little thought about until the old cliche “life or death” became our literal reality.
In August 2001, my husband and I welcomed our first child into our family. Vittoria was born with Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that most commonly affects the heart, joints, eyes and blood vessels.
Vittoria didn’t let the physical challenges hold her back as she impacted everyone around her with a very strong, happy, cheerful, fearless, determined and extremely polite personality.
Vittoria had her first open heart surgery when she was 18 months old to fix her leaking heart valves. Our strong little girl endured countless doctor visits and underwent several back surgeries throughout her life. In July 2009 our life changed forever.
Vittoria was scheduled to have a preventative open heart surgery to fix her bulging aorta. Unfortunately, while in surgery, there were complications and things started to deteriorate. We found out that half of her heart had stopped working.
Shortly after, when it was certain that her heart would not regain full function, the only option to save her life was a heart transplant. We waited and prayed for a heart while she fought to stay alive.
The critical wait turned from days into weeks. August 16, 2009, exactly one week before her 8th birthday, Vittoria took a turn for the worst and her battle to live came to an end. We ran out of time and she never received her heart and our lives without our princess would never feel normal again.
To honor her life, we share Vittoria’s story to help spread awareness about organ donation whenever and wherever we can. After losing our little girl, I know the deep and almost debilitating grief one can experience and it is something I would not wish on anyone, but giving the gift of life so others can live is the greatest legacy one can leave.
My husband and I, and even our young son, are all registered donors. We feel very strongly in favor of organ donation and hope that you will join us if you haven’t registered already. Visit yesutah.org and say YES to organ donation.
Valeria Balbo Frandsen