The message from two policemen at the door was every parent’s worst fear.
“Is Christopher Michaels your son? There’s been an accident,” one officer said.
Paramedics returning from another call were on the scene within moments after Chris was struck by a car Aug. 6, 2013. He was rollerblading home after volunteering at a local YMCA event.
Doctors at the hospital didn’t hold out much hope. Chris had suffered severe head trauma and was on a ventilator. He never regained consciousness. He was just 22. So strong, so handsome and so full of life.
Representatives of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network asked if the family would consider organ donation for Chris — he was a registered donor. Their approach was gentle, but his mom, Jane, was in shock.
After a few hours, Jane was ready to honor Chris’ commitment. His brother, Dan, asked if the family could choose who would receive one of Chris’ kidneys — make a “directed donation” — if there was a match with the father of Dan’s close friend. He had been on the kidney transplant waiting list for some time.
The Gift of Hope representative took all of the information needed for a directed donation, and, later, the two families were thrilled to learn there was a match. The chances are rare.
The last good-byes were peaceful. Family had time alone with Chris to talk and pray. They walked arm in arm with Chris down the hall to the door of the operating room where Chris would offer the gift of life. Still, it was heartbreaking to let him go.
One lasting impression was that every member of the Gift of Hope team was extraordinarily kind and compassionate to the family. They always treated Chris with the utmost respect and dignity.
“They did, in fact, give us hope that Chris’ death was not a waste of a precious life, but that he will indeed live on in others,” Jane said. “He will always live in our hearts.”
Twenty years was just not enough time with Chris. He was born on March 22, 1991, on the island of Cebu in the Philippines and joined his family through adoption just after his second birthday.
Chris loved coaching a boys’ traveling soccer team after he graduated from high school and worked in a warehouse. He liked helping others and feeling like a big brother; he was the youngest of three children.
Dan and Jane had the wonderful opportunity to visit with the man who received Chris’ kidney, along with his family, and see how well the dad is doing and what a remarkable difference Chris has made in his life.
Dan’s friend is getting married this summer, and everyone looks forward to seeing his dad dance at the wedding. Chris was a good dancer. Perhaps Dan’s father will have some of Chris’ moves on the dance floor.