Mothers turn tragedy into life-saving gift

12:34 AM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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Nearly 2,000 children and teens in the United States are waiting for organ transplants. That waiting list is growing, complicated by the fact that these children sometimes need organs from other children, that match in size.

That's why two local mothers are speaking out. In the face of their own tragedies, both women were able to think beyond their own loss.

And by sharing their stories they hope others will do the same.

"My son Charlie was almost beyond his years. He planned his future," says Ali Kho, before adding, "we never know when it's our turn."

No one in Charlie Kho's family could have predicted the horrible car crash on October 17, 2011. Charlie was walking down Cook Road, not far from his Olmsted Township home, delivering invitations to his 13th birthday party.

That's when a driver hit him, and kept going. It would take police two months to track down the elderly woman behind the wheel.

Ali Kho remembers the moment in the hospital, when doctors told the Khos their son was brain dead.

"It was hard because of the fact that his bruises were healing. He looked like he was getting better.  Almost like he was just sleeping, and that's the state we walked away from," Kho recalls.

In that moment, doctors gave the Khos the option of donating Charlie's organs.

Right now, there are 116,000 people in the United States waiting for life-saving organs. But for parents faced with an unimaginable loss, the opportunity to give the gift of life, doesn't feel like an opportunity, at all.

"Nobody wants to lose a loved one. Certainly not your child," says Kho.

There's no right or wrong answer, but Roschelle Ogbuji sees another side.

"I tell people it wasn't even the right thing to do, at the time. It was the loving things to do," Ogbuji says. It was a choice she had to make six years ago.

Ogbuji lost three, young daughters in a Shaker Heights house fire. Her youngest Anya, just 14 months old, was eligible to donate her organs.

"I share this story a lot. That I knew that I didn't want another mom to feel the same way I was feeling. And if we could give the gift of life to them, so they could enjoy their son or daughter, it was something that I definitely wanted to do," Ogbuji says, as she holds one of her two daughters, born in the years following the fire.

Today, with LifeBanc, she counsels other families.

"I tell people, if you ever have to make that decision, think about that decision now, because really what comes out in a moment of tragedy is what is already in you."

For Ali Kho, it meant thinking about what Charlie, her selfless child, would have wanted.

"To be able to help people," she says. So his kidneys, pancreas, liver, and heart went to five people in need. Ali is just beginning to learn about the lives Charlie has saved.

"A boy wrote to me, an older teen. And he received the heart. That one I was waiting for," Kho recalls. "He thanked me for every holiday, and listed every single one. 'Thank you for letting me hear my mother laugh. Hearing my sister make jokes. It was going through every aspect that made him shine now. not that he had his renewal," Kho says lovingly of the letter she cherishes.

And it's a feeling of love, she keeps close to her own heart today.

"Just getting a touch of their life and how it has more meaning now. It's life for them. A renewal of life. To start all over again," Kho says, with a smile.

Doctors will never pressure a family to donate a deceased child's organs. They're actually not even part of the decision process. But they do say organs procured from a child, most of the time, do well.

The rate of rejection is lower compared to adult transplants. As for Ali Kho, she stays in touch with the recipients of Charlie's organs.

She hopes to meet them one day, especially the boy who received Charlie's heart.


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