Recently, we connected with Bridget Bell, a mom of three from the Dallas area. Bridget has an extremely special organ transplant story that we asked her to tell in her own words. Please read on for extraordinary story!
“Lester and I were married in 1980 while we were still students at Baylor University. After graduation we moved to Dallas in 1981 and started working at our dream jobs: Lester in banking and I in a retail buying office. After a few years of working and traveling, we decided to start a family. In September 1989, our daughter Emily was born at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. Perfect pregnancy, perfect baby; we were so excited.
In August of 1990, Emily got sick with a virus, and our pediatrician told us that it would run its course and Emily would be better in a couple of days. On Thursday August 23 I took her back to the pediatrician because she wasn’t improving; she was also slightly dehydrated so the doctors admitted her to the hospital. After running some tests, they determined that Emily had something called intussusception (an intestinal blockage) – correctable by surgery or a barium enema. We decided on the enema because it was less invasive. But after a few hours Emily started having a seizure, lost consciousness, was intubated and transferred to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Tests were performed all day Friday, August 24, and after much consultation it was determined that somewhere in the process of trying to reverse the intussusception her sodium level had dropped, which caused her brain to swell.
Emily was pronounced brain dead around 6:00 p.m. that Friday evening, less than 24 hours after she was admitted to the hospital. Lester and I were approached by a transplant doctor at Children’s and asked if we would be willing to donate Emily’s organs. We were devastated by our loss, but Lester and I said yes.
After some time, I really can’t remember how long, we started receiving letters from Emily’s recipient family, via Southwest Transplant Alliance. We were so happy to learn that Emily’s heart had been transplanted into a ten-day-old baby girl in St. Louis, Missouri named Melissa Clynes. Eventually Lester and I started corresponding directly with Mary, Melissa’s mom. We loved hearing all about Melissa, exchanging pictures of our families (Lester and I had two more children by now, Elliot and Elizabeth), and just getting to know each other better. The first time we all met Melissa and Mary was in the summer of 1999 here in Dallas. It was hard to describe, but it was amazing and very emotional.
Melissa’s story is truly a miracle, as she’s had other health struggles, including two kidney transplants – one from her mom, Mary, and another from a living chain through her sister, Sarah.
So when our family found out that Melissa was engaged, we were thrilled. Mary assured me that Melissa had found a young man named Travis who loved her very much. Our family was so excited to be invited to the wedding in St. Louis, Missouri just this past March. Lester, Elliot, Elizabeth, and I were all able to attend and were so excited, but honestly, we had no idea what to expect. Elliot and Elizabeth have known about Emily and Melissa their entire lives, and they feel connected to Melissa in a way that’s hard to put into words.
The experience of attending the wedding of your daughter’s heart transplant recipient is something we never thought we would be able to have, and It was absolutely wonderful! Melissa’s parents, Mary and Mike, were so kind and welcoming. We were able to meet all of Melissa’s aunts and uncles, as well as cousins and nurses. Melissa looked beautiful, and the wedding was perfect.
We feel that Melissa’s life is truly a miracle and are passionate about telling our story to increase organ donor awareness and encourage others to give the gift of life.”