Mom hoped her loss would save someone else

By Dee Mack
Updated 10/7/2013 9:20 AM
  • Dee Mack carried her eighth child nearly to term despite knowing he wouldn't survive. She hoped to donate the baby's organs, but he was stillborn.

    Dee Mack carried her eighth child nearly to term despite knowing he wouldn't survive. She hoped to donate the baby's organs, but he was stillborn. Courtesy of Dee Mack

This is a story about Donavan Thomas. No one will ever get to meet him, but he is one of the most important people in my life. His story begins on July 5, 2011.

I went to go see my OB/GYN to have an IUD inserted. Instead, I was informed that I was unexpectedly pregnant with my eighth child. Sitting in disbelief, the doctor did an ultrasound that day in the office. It was confirmed that I was six weeks along.

I didn't know how to feel at that very moment because I was not planning on having any more children. But by the time I left the doctor's office, I had accepted the fact that I was going to be a mother for the eighth time.

Twelve weeks later, my OB had decided that because my last three pregnancies were high risk due to pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, he would have my ultrasound done at the specialist's office. I was 18 weeks along.

During the ultrasound, the tech was eerily quiet. The distorted image on the screen looked like an old-fashioned ultrasound picture. I thought that they had decided not to use the 3-D technology.

It took the specialist about 30 minutes to come into the room after the tech left. When he came in, I wished that he had never opened his mouth.

I was informed that my baby did not have either kidney nor a bladder. It was expected that my baby would not make it to term and, if he did, he would die immediately after birth. To this day, I still don't remember how I made it home, as I had forgotten the way there.

My baby had been diagnosed with stage 4 Potter's Syndrome (renal agenesis). I had decided to continue with my pregnancy and wait for nature to take its course. I just couldn't terminate my baby.

When it came to telling my children, I just told my older three who were 19, 18 and 12. With my little ones, who were 8, 7 and 5, I first reached out to their school, where the staff was amazingly supportive and would take the kids out of the room anytime they wanted to talk.

They had all already experienced dealing with death so they understood it and initially didn't say anything. My 15-month-old didn't know anything was happening then.

About a month later, I decided I would donate Donavan's organs. That was the only thing that was keeping me sane. I figured my son must be coming to save someone else's baby.

On Jan. 17, 2012, I was 32 weeks pregnant and I went for my regular OB visit. The medical assistant had a hard time finding Donavan's heartbeat. I wasn't worried, in fact, I was quite happy because like my last four pregnancies, my babies all had moved away from the microphone and they would always have to chase them. So that gave me hope. And then, he finally sat still long enough for the medical assistant to get his heart rate, 136.

The OB and I had finalized plans for delivery and working with Edward's neonatal team and Gift of Hope.

On Jan. 19, 2012, I had what would be my last ultrasound. Donavan had passed away in those two days. I was induced the next day; delivering Donavan a little after 2 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. He was due on March, 16, 2012.

Donavan was 3 pounds, 15 ounces and 13 inches long. He was smaller than my other children and had less hair. He also had 6 toes on one of his feet with two big toes. Due to Potter's Syndrome, he had some facial deformities, but other than that he was fully developed.

I don't remember how I felt at that time though. I also don't remember almost anything that happened in the room after I held him. I don't even remember the nurses taking pictures, but I know that they did because they gave them to me.

However, when the funeral home came to pick him up, it felt as if someone had just ripped out my heart and snatched my soul at the same time. That was the first time that I broke down after having him.

I had also started feeling guilty. Since Donavan was stillborn, I unfortunately couldn't donate his organs. I felt like I had let somebody down because somebody, somewhere was depending on whatever Donavan could donate. With the exception of his lungs, everything else was healthy.

My 15-month-old knew something was wrong when I returned home from the hospital. That very first night, she climbed into my bed and went to do what she had been doing -- kissing my stomach and putting her ear to my stomach. But she quickly realized that Donavan wasn't there. It took her three days to come into my room. She would stand on the other side of the door and wouldn't budge.

At the memorial service, my 8- and 7-year-olds cried a lot. My 5-year-old was trying to figure out how he should feel, or at least that's what the look on his face suggested.

Eventually, my younger kids did ask me about Donavan's condition, how he got it and if there's was anything they could do to change it. And I told them what the condition was and that sometimes God decides that you're too special to be on earth and needs you to be in heaven with him, and Donavan is one of the too-special ones.

They were OK with that answer. I thought it would have been difficult with them, but they became my backbone.

Donavan was here for a short time but will be loved for a lifetime by all of us.

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