Hidden Heroes

As I write this, doctors are prepping a young man for surgery. A difficult surgery. A critical surgery. Prayers channel through the halls of the hospital, sparking around the state, the country. Prayers that the surgery will happen, that it will be successful. Prayers of hope, pleading prayers. He is only 28.

Somewhere close by, his young wife waits. Maybe she’s still. Maybe she paces. Maybe her hand flits reflexively, protectively to her abdomen, pressing against the bulge there. Shielding herself or the tiny life growing, the one they should be celebrating together. Their first child, due in October. It’s a boy.

This wasn’t the way they planned things. Who knew the “for worse” and “in sickness” of their wedding vows would hit so soon? Wasn’t that supposed to be after they had grown old together? But she’s strong. She has to be. For him. For herself. For the baby. For all of their little family.

These weeks have been the hardest of their lives. The quickness, the ferocity of the illness. But now, there is a spark of hope. As I’m writing this, the doctors are prepping him for surgery.


As I’m writing this, a family is reeling. Friends are suffering. Maybe some of them don’t even know yet, maybe they haven’t all heard. Their loved one is gone. It was probably sudden, probably unexpected. But you can never really be ready. And as I’m writing this, somewhere, the pain of loss is cutting deeper and deeper. For their loved one’s heart has stopped.


But not forever.


These two families will probably never meet. They will probably never know one another’s names or faces or the stories of how their two collective lives became linked. But they are linked. In an unavoidable and intimate way.  All because of one person’s selfless decision.


Organ transplants are an emotionally confounding medical procedure. On one end, a family is hoping and praying for an organ, necessary to preserve the life of their loved one. On the other end, that means the life of another family’s loved one could not be preserved.

I have been on the one end before. When I was 17, my father needed a liver transplant. Every year, on the date of his transplant, we celebrate that he is still alive. And we know that somewhere in the world, every year, on the same date, some other family is marking another year without their loved one.

These individuals, the organ donors, they are hidden heroes. Most of them probably never set out to be heroic, never planned to save so many others. But their selfless decision to agree to being an organ donor is the heroic act in a number of different lives. I still think about the individual who helped save my father. I still think about that individual’s family and friends. I feel for the grief they endured and are still enduring, the grief that is like a photo negative of my own joy.

Now I find myself waiting for news of another transplant. My sister’s brother-in-law, only 28. Five minutes from entering a surgery that could save his life.

And as I wait to hear how it goes, I am thinking about the family. And I want to thank them, and all the families of organ donors. I wish I could thank your loved ones. It wasn’t their choice to go. But it was their choice to do something for others once they were gone. And now, your loved one’s care and unselfish concern for the general, has touched specifics. The decision they made, who knows how long ago, to donate their organs, is offering a shot, a second chance, a spark of hope for this small, young family.

Because of your loved one, perhaps he will get to see the birth of his son. Perhaps he will feel the joy of holding that small person and feeling their hearts beat together. His wife will have her best friend and helpmate.

I pray healing and comfort for you in this time of grief.

And to all the hidden heroes, and their families: thank you.


~S.D. Bullard


~ by sdbullard on July 1, 2014.

6 Responses to “Hidden Heroes”

  1. That was awesome. I really enjoy your teaching and will miss that part of the job . Sometimes decisions are for other people as mine was. You are an amazing lady and I pray that God will give you the desires of your heart . I heard a funny line about Hunger Games on TV. She said to her roommate “are you watching Hunger Games again.? “She said “you don’t watch Hunger Games you study it .”

  2. Wow, so powerful! Hoping and praying that the surgery went well and that your sister’s brother-in-law has a smooth recovery!

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