How her father's bones healed this Latter-day Saint woman after a tragic car accident


In this week's episode of This Is the Gospel, a tragic car accident takes the life of Ashley's father and leaves her with a hand so badly crippled that she is unable to find solace in the activities she once loved, including playing the piano. Ashley is left suffering emotionally from grief and physically from failed medical attempts to restore the use of her hand. Then, her mother, Michelle, remembers that she consented to have her husband's organs donated, and wonders if his bones might be the key to healing for their daughter.

An adapted excerpt from the story is below. Listen to the full podcast here or read the transcript here. 

Ashley 18:20

About three or four months after the accident, my hand wasn't getting better. . . . One of the options thrown out there very casually was just maybe we can do a bone graft. And then just as quickly as [the doctor] said that, he went on to the next option. So it really we didn't know for sure.

Michelle 18:28

. . . One of the things that [the doctor] had said [was], "If some of the surgeries don't work, we can always take bone from her hip and do a transplant to her arm." And . . . I just thought, "Oh, we can't do that." Ashley was devastated when she heard that. She didn't need another surgery and another place that hurt on her body. 

I just remember being at home . . . [and] out of nowhere, I had this moment where I went, "Oh my gosh! I donated his bones. Where are they? Oh my goodness, where are they? Where are they? Where are his bones?" It just kind of like almost hit me . . . that conversation with the doctor had passed probably weeks before that. It wasn't on my mind, it just all of a sudden there it was: you donated his bones. 

. . . And I called the organ donation people and asked them, "Where are his bones?" I just had my fingers crossed, please, please, please, I hope they're not gone. And they said, "Actually, they are not even finished being processed. We are about a week shy of them being done." That's when I called the doctor and said, "We donated bones from her Dad, can they be used?" And he's like, "Of course they can." He didn't know anything about that part of it of the story. So he called . . . and reserved what he needed, and then some. He said, "And extra, just to be sure." And so they were just put aside. We still didn't know if we were ever going to need them. We hoped we didn't because we didn't want to have to go through more surgeries on a trial basis to get there.

Ashley 21:04

But then six months down the line, we knew that that was the last option. The last thing to do to save my hand was a bone graft. . . . And so as I was in the operating room, before I went under, the doctor pulled out this little container, and it had my dad's bone in it. And he said, "Here it is. Here's your dad He's gonna make you better." 

And we both cried a little bit together . . . and the surgery worked. My blood started flowing again, my hand, came back to life—I guess you could say. My fingers were able to move again, after lots of physical therapy. My wrist is still paralyzed, but I am so grateful to have a hand, I'll take it. 

I think that had I received a transplant from anybody else, my own hip or another donor, that I may not have ever healed emotionally. I felt like I was getting a little bit of him back like he hadn't quite left me. I also felt like even in death, that he was still my dad. He was still looking after me and taking care of me and making it better. 

The fact that I had lost everything made it possible for me to get that very special, unique connection with my dad that none of the other kids were able to have. It was kind of the turning point where I could start to heal emotionally. And I think at that point, that I kind of accepted what had happened, and knew that everything was going to be okay.

Michelle 23:12

I remembered that a good friend had told me when Kash passed away that Kash was not released as my husband or wasn't released as the children's father. That at any time that we needed him that we could call on him and he would be there if he could be in any capacity that he really could be there for us. And so when we got the bones, to me that day, I felt like I had this, I don't know, beautiful confirmation from Heavenly Father that Kash still belonged to us and that he was still a part of their lives—my children's lives—in any way that he could be.

For the rest of Ashley's and Michelle's story, listen to the full podcast here or read the transcript here. 

Lead image courtesy Ashley and Michelle

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