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[Bobby] The Last Afternoon

This is Bobby. I had stayed behind in Managua after the ambulance jet left. I was supposed to at least be able to go out to the plane, but the soldiers allowed only the bomberos (fireman) and passengers to enter, much to the dismay of Chief “K” from the US Embassy who had made the arrangements to enable the whole airlift to happen. There was a last minute hiccup in that the AeroJet medical personnel wanted insulin for the flight, so Moises went with the Chief to a nearby pharmacy to purchase some. As soon as they returned, the plane took off (which we heard, but couldn’t see).

So then we all dispersed, hoping for the best, but wondering what was going to happen. We learned that the women from Los Cedros, who had visited at the hospital earlier were at the main gate hoping to get a glimpse. I spent the night at the Las Mercedes hotel across from the airport, my mother’s normal base of operations. Everyone, from the bellhops to the desk clerks to the waiters, told me how they and everyone they knew were praying for my mother and how she had touched them. Happily, Moises and his two younger children shared dinner and stayed with me.

The national Partner’s organization in Washington made arrangements (through their incredibly helpful agent, Marika Delgado) for both Amy and me to get to Milwaukee. We all went to the airport at 4:45am in the morning to stand in long lines. The flights were uneventful and I arrived in Milwaukee at 3:30pm, not knowing how the airlift had gone or how the doctors at St. Luke’s were dealing with their new patient. Beth’s husband Glenn and my Dad picked me up. They hinted that things weren’t going very well, but weren’t very talkative. I got to the hospital a little after 4 and then learned what I didn’t want to hear about the radiation flow test – no blood was getting into her brain and she was legally declared to be brain dead at 3:09pm.

It was so hard to accept – I went to her room in the Neurological ICU and she looked much like I had last seen her in Nicaragua. Her chest was rising strongly, her hands were warm, she still had the bruises around her eyes and lots of tubes, but she looked just like the pictures of myself after my brain surgery 3 years ago. Why couldn’t she just wake up? We all took turns crying and hugging her and hoping for a miracle, but there was nothing else to do but accept it.

Soon after, my grandmother June (Sherin’s mother) was brought to the hospital by her youngest son Russ and his wife Marlene (Sherin is the oldest and has another brother, Dave). We cautioned June (who will be 92 in June) about what she would see, but there was no doubt that she had to look on her daughter one last time. This was perhaps the most significant result of bringing Sherin back to Wisconsin.

When we could finally tear ourselves away, we had a family prayer led by Bryan and Glenn reviewing our feelings, followed by an important discussion with Cami Doornek from the Wisconsin Donor Network about the possibility of donating any of Sherin’s organs for transplant. We all agreed she would want that and so my dad and I helped fill out the questionnaire. We all had dinner in the hospital cafeteria (the food was good, but it had been even better at Vivian Pellas).

So, as the medical staff began preparing Sherin’s body for the transplanting, we again dispersed – Russ, Marlene and June to Mosinee in central Wisconsin, Beth and Glenn to their home in Two Rivers near Green Bay, Amy driving through a snowstorm to see her family in Stevens Point (just returned from Florida), Bryan to the Amtrak station to pick up Isaac and finally my Dad and I following to Beth’s. We all kept in touch to make sure everyone got home OK and tried to find peace in sleep.

The final bit of news came at 8:30am Saturday morning when Glenn received a call that Sherin’s liver and kidneys had been successfully transplanted into several recipients. We’ll receive more information about them in the weeks to come, but we take comfort in knowing that those parts continue serving just as Sherin always did throughout her life.