It should be a compliment to be considered a rare human being. But with 10-year-old Houstonian Luke Romero, rare isn’t a good word.
At 3 years old, Luke suffers from the rarest form of vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. So rare, he’s perhaps only one of six in the world
And rare has its price. By the time Luke was 6, his kidneys shut down and he was forced to begin dialysis while he awaited a donor.
It was in the midst of that wait, on Dec. 27, 2002, Luke began complaining of dizziness. Since he was scheduled for a treatment that day, Luke’s dad brought him to the dialysis center. Once there, Luke collapsed and started turning blue.
CPR was started immediately and Luke was rushed to the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital where the staff momentarily revived him. But even as Sylvia Elizondo, Luke’s mother, was summoned to the ER, Luke stopped breathing again.
CPR was restarted as Luke’s pediatrician, Dr. Stuart Goldstein, urged the staff on, saying, “He’s a fighter, keep working.” He pushed them to keep trying until Sylvia could arrive.
All the while, Luke’s dad was talking to Sylvia by cell phone urging her to increase her already 75 mph driving. “Where are you?” he demanded of Sylvia, who had birthed their daughter three days prior. “Get here now! They’re using shock pedals!”
When Sylvia arrived at the ER, she was led to the grieving room.
“I knew that room was where parents are given bad news,” she told me in a Houston interview this week. Suddenly Sylvia glanced to one side, and through a window of the trauma room. She spotted Luke.
“I wasn’t going into the grieving room,” Sylvia said, “so I just pleaded with the staff, ‘Tell him I’m here. Just tell him I’m here!’ ”
Back in the trauma room, Luke’s two favorite nurses relayed Sylvia’s message, but saw no response. Several minutes later, when the nurses emerged from the room sobbing, Sylvia was sure Luke had died.
Then another emotional reversal — Luke’s doctors came out to tell the family that Luke had stabilized and was being moved to the ICU. Yet, they cautioned that Luke had been under CPR for 45 minutes, more than enough time for brain damage.
As staff prepared to move Luke, Sylvia drew a breath of hope on one fact. Luke had begun breathing on his own only after hearing his mom was present.
Sylvia remembers the next day as living minute by minute. “I just kept holding his hand, praying and pleading, ‘Luke, if you can hear me, give me a sign!’ ”
On the third day, Luke’s hand flinched. A sign? The staff explained it as a drug reaction, but Sylvia knew, “. . . deep in my heart, it wasn’t drugs.”
The next few days brought slow improvement until Luke finally mouthed “Momma.” This time, brain waves assured the staff that this was more than drugs. Seven days later, Luke went home.
Exactly one year after Luke’s mom received the terrifying phone call that nearly announced the end of Luke’s life, Sylvia received another phone call heralding a new beginning for Luke.
The caller told her Luke would receive a kidney the next day.
Recently, faith groups around the nation celebrated Donor Sabbath. It’s an interfaith effort emphasizing the fact that nearly all United States-based religions support organ and tissue donation. Yet when many families are asked to consider donating the organs of their loved one, they will respond that it’s against their religion.
With more than 89,000 people waiting for a life-enhancing tissue or cornea transplant, it’s time for people of faith to honor stewardship of life and become your brother’s keeper. Donate life.
Visit these Web sites for more information: www.organdonor.gov and www.giftofhope.org.