This picture clearly shows the forced smiles on our faces and the days of sleeplessness in our eyes. Ella had already been pronounced dead about 12 hours before this picture and we were devastated. The CT scan had shown mass amounts of blood all over her brain and she was exhibiting no brain function. Because of this, they performed a test to confirm that she was braindead. Typically, after this test is performed and the patient fails, they are pronounced. However, children are given a second test several hours later to confirm. When she failed the first test, we began discussing our options. That is when we made the decision that if she failed the second test, we wanted her to be an organ donor. This decision was the easiest one to make. We imagined other families, just like us, begging God for a miracle. When it was clear we were not going to get the miracle we were praying for, we wanted Ella to be that miracle for someone else.
Because she was an organ donor, Ella was kept on the machines for another 15 hours, giving the medical team time to locate recipients and fly surgeons in from various places throughout the country. This also gave us a few more hours with her, and we were soaking up every second we could before we had to let her go. Though these were the toughest days of our lives, these women held our hands and walked us through every moment. We posed for this picture because we wanted a picture with her doctor and nurses before the shift change.
We can't possibly find the words to explain how amazing each of these ladies are. We are confident that God had chosen each of them for Ella, and He used them mightily to comfort us. They were the hands we would feel on our shoulders as we wept at her bedside. They were the voices of calm assurance when we questioned ourselves. They were the arms that embraced us as we fell apart. They called Ella by name as they worked with her, even though they knew she was no longer with us. They showed up with gifts for Ella and spent time loving on our other kids. They stopped being paid medical staff and became family; and they will always be family to us.
When we arrived at the funeral, someone quickly put #forElla bracelets on our arms. At the time, I had no idea where they had come from. Soon after I learned that her doctor, Mary Lynn Sheram (to my left), had the bracelets made and provided them for the service. She has had hundreds more made since then for us to give to Ella's classmates, family, friends, and church family. Marie (to my far left) became a security for our oldest daughter, Abby, letting her help to do handprints and footprints of Ella for us to keep. Erin (to Jody's right) bought a huge stuffed turtle for Ella because we had told her that Ella had been begging for a pet turtle. She also became our six-year-old daughter's best friend, at times letting her take over the nurse's station and coloring with her whenever she could. They couldn't make our situation better, but they stood by us and are still beside us today.
Children's Hospital of Georgia has the absolute best people in the medical profession. We are so grateful God led us there and blessed us with these amazing ladies, and we will forever be thankful that we have them in our lives.