It’s easy to get confused.
Or stick your head in the sand. Your brain is grasping at straws to make sense of the fact that your loved one is laying in front of you, in a hospital bed. He seems to be breathing normally, chest rising and falling in perfect cadence with the beep of the machines he is hooked up to, like he’s asleep.
But he’s not. His brain isn’t working anymore.
I know all too well the confusion Bobby Brown seemed to feel and then express when he said his daughter Bobbi Kristina “is awake” and “watching [him].”
I know what it’s like to hold someone’s hand, warm with life, and be told they’re not there and just plain not believe them, even if they have an M.D. after their name. To think, maybe, he just squeezed your hand back or that you saw her eyes move, even a little, beneath her eyelids. And in your mind, you call everyone else a liar.
My family experienced this reality six years ago when my brother, due to complications from breaking his neck, became brain dead.
When Andrew went into the hospital, he was completely non-responsive, similar to Bobbi Kristina.
So that you can better understand, the term “non-responsive,” as defined by SheKnows Expert and family medicine physician Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, is “the individual has other indicators of life like a heartbeat, respirations, etc., but is not responsive to things like verbal communication, movement when pain/pressure is applied. It can also be used when a person is found without a pulse, or is not breathing…”
He was originally put into a medically induced coma for stabilization. Once stable, the doctors took him out of his drug-induced coma, but he was still in a coma. It was shortly after that our family was dealt another blow. “Something” went wrong and he stopped getting blood to his brain. His brain was deprived for just a few minutes, according to doctors, but he was gone.
It is an interesting and unique situation to be in when someone you love becomes or is declared legally brain dead in the hospital. Because their vital bodily functions are still being maintained by a machine, their organs are still viable. Unlike, for example, if they were in an accident on the highway, in which case some organs and tissue might not be viable. It is at that point organ donation is put on the table.
According to our expert, Dr. Agarwal, “If the organs are viable and can help provide life to another individual the physician and hospital team will approach the family to discuss the possibility of becoming an organ donor. If family members opt to donate the organs, the machines that are keeping the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. functioning will continue to be used until the organs can be safely removed and utilized.”
We don’t know the truth about Bobbi Kristina’s condition as reports have been conflicting, especially since her father’s concert revelations. So we do not know if she is going to be able to recover or if she may, in fact, be brain dead.
My story, however, has a silver lining, however faint.
My brother was able to become a hero in death by giving life to complete strangers. He told us he wanted to be and was also registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor. Andrew was a strapping 22-year-old athlete. Big is an understatement. His feet were hanging off the end of the hospital bed.
We were able to place his lungs with a man who had been waiting for a very long time due to his size. And one by one, they placed his other organs. When all is said and done, organ and tissue donors can save or greatly improve up to 50 lives.
There are many myths and misconceptions about being an organ and tissue donor, but it is important to get the facts and then, more importantly, talk to your family about your wishes. That way, God forbid, if anything were to ever happen to you, your family will know what you would want them to do.
Get more information about becoming an organ donor and register to be an organ donor through Donate Life America.