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“It was that phone call that you get in the middle of the night. The one that every parent dreads. We got the call about 5 in the morning. Christopher was taken to Tulane Emergency Medical Center. They didn’t know what was wrong. He was non responsive.”
Eric Gregory and his wife Grace rushed to be with their son. 19 year old Christopher, a tall, handsome, gym going guy, had suffered a brain aneurysm. It was without warning.
“When you get that news, suddenly the entire universe is turned inside out. Everything is wrong. Everything is backwards,” Gregory says, “this dull ache sets into your heart and your soul.”
Not long before this tragedy, the family had all been together at dinner and talk had turned to organ donation. Christopher, his dad recalls, said if anything ever happened to him, he wanted his organs donated.
When Christopher’s life abruptly came to an end, his family saw that his wishes were fulfilled. They thought maybe something positive could come out of tragedy.
As the Gregory’s struggled to say goodbye to their son, to try to memorize every feature on his face, they were told, “There are planes flying all over tonight because of you.” Christopher’s organs were being rushed to patients in dire need. He ended up saving five lives.
“Throughout the United States about 124,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants,” says Jacqueline Keidel from AZ Donor Network. She says it is important for families to have conversations — like the Gregorys had — to express individual wishes.
Eventually, the Gregorys would meet the people whose lives were saved by Christopher’s decision to donate his organs. Including Jorge Barcardi, the Patriarch of the Barcardi family.
Gregory describes their first meeting.
“We get to their hotel, we walked in, they turned and suddenly it was like in slow motion. Everyone was crying and it was a very emotional moment,” he goes on to say, “We didn’t know their name was Barcardi, it didn’t matter, it still doesn’t. It was clear the impact of Christopher’s gift — it went way beyond.”
Gregory is now working on a book about the week their son died. The relationships that were formed in the hospital and the lives that were saved all over the country.
7 years and 5 months later, Christopher’s “heart still beats, his eyes still see, his lungs draw breath and his love of humanity is still very much alive”.