… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants
This is the story of Melissa Noel Gallaher of Fort Collins, Colorado, an innocent young woman who died at the hands of uncaring aggressive doctors, driven more by their desire for organs than by any concern for the needs of their young patient. This is an edited version of an eyewitness account written by Melissa’s mother, Carolyn Gallaher.
My daughter, Melissa, was hit by a car as she was crossing the street. She suffered from acute brain trauma. A miracle happens moments after the accident. The miracle was an ambulance just happens to pass by within minutes of the accident. My daughter is given care immediately. She arrives at the hospital within 18 minutes.
Later, I found out that treatment, such as Mannitol and hypothermia therapy for acute brain trauma could have been given by the EMT’s. She should have been carried to a level 1 trauma center because of her multiple traumatic injuries, vitals, and the GCS score. But the medical director of the hospital did not advise the EMT’s to give my daughter:
Instead my daughter is taken to hospital. She gets evaluated and a CT scan [is] done. But what I have learned is that there is a golden hour of opportunity to stop the Intracranial Brain Pressure from rising. There are many aggressive treatments that can be done for acute brain trauma. Surgery is what my daughter needed immediately, she got mannitol. Her ICP came down from 80 to 25.
Then the doctor made the decision not to [proceed with] advanced care. He said, “she is a poor prognosis and poor outcome”. So my daughter who is breathing and has a weak cough, all signs of brain stem function, is let to lie there in pain with no treatment except supportive care while they wait to harvest her organs.
We are asked within two hours for her organs via the phone. I must insert… this is our word against the doctor. He denies this now. But they can’t deny what is on the medical report. It says,
Our daughter is coughing up until 3:00 a.m. It says the ongoing plan is to harvest her organs.The doctors and hospital had an option. Operate on my daughter and hope for a miracle, or call it quits, and let my daughter’s life benefit the federal government in passing out her organs to the world. If there had not been an option, my daughter would have gotten medical care because the doctor and hospital need to make money despite the futility of their efforts. This was the first heartbreaking awakening that I found out: A doctor and hospital can withhold care from you if they think you are futile.
This is a contradiction to all the care that cancer patients get. I guess it is where the money is that deems if you are given care… not whether you are futile or not. The whole reason for our suspicion of this hospital and doctors is the careless and aggressive way in which we were approached for our daughter’s organ. First, within two hours, and over the phone. Second, moments after I arrive, standing by my daughter’s bed, it seems as though it is being shouted from the nursing center about the designation on my daughter’s license. It was thought, at that time, her Colorado license had a donor designation on it, but maybe not her Oklahoma [license]. They had to make sure both complied with being a donor.
So I am standing by my daughter, feeling pretty good, because my daughter looks amazing for just being hit by a car. All her limbs are intact, she is breathing, and I am told that all of her major organs are unharmed. I am excited, because I think that there is a possibility that my daughter might make it. So I start talking to Melissa, I ask her to move her toe to let me know that she knows I am here. She moves the left baby toe and the one next to it. She did this four times when I ask her to. I know it was purposeful and a direct response to my asking her. Because she did it four times when I asked her to. Every time they scraped the bottom of her feet she pulled it away. Yet they say, “This is insignificant, it is spinal.” My thought, ‘Why do it, if it is insignificant.” Later, I read, ‘that my daughter contracted her thigh muscle to toe nail bed pressure.’ This is significant because the thigh muscle is a skeletal muscle and is only activated by the cortex of the brain.
Other signs of life were that my daughter started her menstrual cycle, which is controlled by the hypothalamus part of the brain. My daughter kept her temperature constant; this is regulated by the brain. The beating of the heart is regulated by the brain. My daughter lifted her body off the bed three times. The nurse even said, “he thought my daughter breathed over the machine”. The head nurse dismissed it, and said, “It was probably the machine.” The ventilator is not functioning as the brain; it is just a machine that just pushes air through the lungs, everything else like temperature, heartbeat, and contractions are controlled by the brain.
They said, “My daughter has doll‘s eyes, but it says on the medical report that it is not checked. I cannot remember them checking for the supra-orbital reflex. I do not remember them checking her hands for nail bed pressure or her chest either.
After our stand that our daughter deserved first rights to her organs, they took us before an ethics committee. We invited a lawyer to sit in on this ethics committee meeting. The ethics committee ended by saying, “we can keep our daughters organs, and that they are now off the table.” I never knew they were on the table, but the medical report says that there was an ongoing plan to donate her organs even before brain death was documented. In fact, brain death was not documented. They blame this on me, but the truth is they had ten hours before I arrived to do any test that they wanted. But they did not do it. Why? I believe they did not do it because my daughter was still coughing up until 3:00 a.m. This is a brain stem function. Brain death can only be declared when all brain stem function is absent.
My daughter was alive when the decision to withhold care from her was made. This is equivalent to performing CPR on a drowning victim and in the middle you stop and say, “This is a poor prognosis and poor outcome. Let’s stop in the mist of resuscitation”. When I was there, they could have done anything they wanted, I was just the mother, watching; really the nurses were taking care of my daughter. It says on the medical report that doctors were talking to us. But this is not true. Most of our communication was with the nurses. Later, with certain doctors. And with the doctor I had to beg blood from, in exchange for an EEG. Can you believe this? I, a mother had to barter for blood products in a hospital. When the organs were taken off the table, I thought everything was going to be okay. Later, after reviewing the medical records, I realized that my daughter only got supportive care while they were waiting for her to die. Because at that time I did not know she was not getting food. If you do not get food, you will die especially when you are weak, in trauma and shock. One treatment for brain trauma is nutrition; it needs to be started within 24 hours.
My daughter was anemic, the doctor reports, “It is probably due to a loss of blood.” But blood products are not given to relieve the anemia. The medical doctors know that my daughter is going to have cardiac failure. But they do not try to prevent this from happening by implanting a defrillbilator in her to keep her heart beating.
My daughter died because she did not get care because the doctors deemed her futile, and brain dead without documentation. My daughter was never brain dead. She showed the doctors many times that she was alive, by coughing, withdrawing her legs, contracting her thigh, and lifting her body off the bed.
My goal to expose this evil and to keep it from happening to other brain injured victims, who could have survived, if they would have been given treatment. Dr. Jamish Gjahar, says, that with today’s technology, “80% of brain injured victims should survive”. It breaks my heart when I read in the medical report that my daughter had thigh contraction to toe nail bed pressure, yet we were not told this. And that the nurse attending her kept putting “??” as to whether her withdrawal from painful stimuli… is it spinal or a withdrawal to pain? This was his entry. Clearly, he knew the difference, that is why he put “??”. I believe it was his way of telling the truth.
My daughter was denied advanced care, while she was breathing and had a weak cough. I am so glad that my daughter was spared from the organ retrieval operation.By Melissa’s Mom, Carolyn
In memoriam: Melissa Noel Gallaher: May 28,1985 - Sep 24, 2010
Photo of Melissa courtesy of Gallaher family