Organ donation is such a blessing to families like the Peters family whose son, Michael received a life-saving heart transplant at the age of 8 months. Michael lived a short but impactful life and his story has inspired many to register to donate their organs to help save lives. We are so grateful to have Nancy and David Peters as our guest bloggers today. Nancy Peters is an attorney who graduated from Creighton University School of Law and David Peters Ed.D is the Head of School of Mount Michael High School. They are the parents of Elizabeth, Michael and Sam.
Here is their story:
Organ donation is the gift of life. We’d like to share the story of Michael; it is the story of life because of that gift.
In 1996, when our son Michael was 5 weeks old, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that replaces healthy heart tissue with fiber, resulting in heart failure. We were told that Michael would not live without a heart transplant.
As parents of a newborn, you are committed to providing your child with all of their needs – a loving family, a warm home, nourishing food, and a good education. Yet, we suddenly found ourselves unable to provide our new baby the very thing he needed to stay alive – a new heart.
Michael’s wait for a new heart lasted many months. His health deteriorated to the point where he remained hospitalized on IV cardiac medications which did their best to keep his heart pumping until a new one might become available. One very dark day, the transplant cardiologist came into Michael’s hospital room and gave us the reality of organ donation – there are not enough organs to go around, and not every child on the waiting list gets a heart. The medical staff began preparing us for the unthinkable – that we would be going home without our son.
But that very weekend, a heart became available, and in October 1996, at the age of eight months, Michael received a heart transplant. Thanks to the incredible generosity of a donor family, who at the time of their greatest anguish reached beyond their own grief to donate their child’s organs, our son received the gift of life.
Michael took that gift and used it to its fullest. For the next twenty years, Michael lived an active and wonderful life, serving as a magnificent example of the benefits of organ donations. During his early grade school years, like most children his age, Michael played sports and was active in Boy Scouts. Michael loved to do all of the things that his sister and brother did, and when you saw the three of the them together you would never guess that one of them was the recipient of a heart transplant.
Michael was very grateful for his gift of life, and he was dedicated to furthering the cause of organ donation. Michael participated in the U.S. Transplant Games many times, and he and his dad would frequently speak to groups about the benefits of organ donation.
Michael had a remarkably intelligent wit and unbeatable sense of humor which only got stronger as he got older. As Michael progressed in school, Michael became involved in speech and drama. Michael had an incredible gift for writing, and he set his goal on becoming a screenwriter.
As parents, we were very grateful for the gift that had been given to Michael, and to us. We were committed to making sure he lived life to the fullest, in gratitude for the gift he had been given. When Michael told us he wanted to go to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for college to study screenwriting, we were more than a little apprehensive to have our son so far from our home in Omaha, Nebraska. However, we did not want to stand in the way of Michael using and sharing his gifts.
So off to LA Michael went, and he blossomed. He loved the screenwriting program, he loved LMU and he loved his classmates. Michael was active in theater at LMU and worked for the school newspaper, The Los Angeles Loyolan. Michael had an incredible impact on those around him. As one of his friends put it, “Only positivity and kindness. Not only was he great onstage, but more importantly off.” Michael continued his commitment to organ donation, writing a wonderful piece for The Loyolan called “My Life Was Saved by An Organ Donor.”
Unfortunately, after his sophomore year Michael’s health declined. Due to the long-term effects of the immunosuppression medication, Michael’s kidneys began to fail, which in turn caused issues for his heart. Many wonderful people stepped forward in an attempt to donate a kidney to Michael, including Nebraska 2016 Mother of the Year, Susan Venteicher. Sadly, Michael’s health deteriorated and the unthinkable happened – Michael passed away unexpectedly in January 2017.
In twenty years, Michael was able to accomplish a lifetime of good works. Michael’s life, a life made possible because of organ donation, was a particularly impactful one. So many people have told us how Michael positively influenced their lives – by encouraging them to be a better writer, a better friend, a better person. The ripple effect of Michael’s life was set forth in part in an article in the Loyolan, “Michael Peters Continues to Inspire Many”
By living life to the fullest, Michael served as the best example of the impact of organ donation.
While we have been devastated by Michael’s untimely loss, we are so very grateful for the twenty years we were blessed with Michael’s beautiful life – a life made possible by the selfless generosity of a donor family.
In memory of Michael’s beautiful life, please consider registering as an organ and tissue donor.