By Jim PlanckPALENVILLE — As the month of April wraps up, a number of local people want you to know that doesn’t mean enrolling in the national organ donor program has to drop off simply because the month officially recognizing “April is Donate Life Month” is concluding.
Among them are Palenville resident Bob Stabile and his daughter, CHS graduate Cheryl Stabile-Toole, a Nurse Manager at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, at Children’s Hospital, in Boston, which cares for critically ill babies.
In the performance of her job, Stabile-Toole said Saturday that sometimes, and thankfully infrequently, she and her co-workers have the heart-wrenching experience of having to help a family say “good-bye” to their newborn child.
“As a nurse whose job it is to save, heal and comfort,” said Stabile-Toole, “these are by far the worst days.”
“Losing a child,” she said, “is a life cut tragically short for reasons that can never be explained in any rational way to those who love them.”
Such a parting came distressingly close, in fact, for Stabile-Toole and her own daughter, Avery Toole, back in 2009 when Avery was five years old, “slowly dying on life support,” said her mother, and noting it was Avery’s 52nd day on the heart transplant list.
Stabile-Toole said she was saved, however, after they received an early August, 2 a.m. phone call notifying them that the wait was over, and that a heart had been found.
“Avery was about to receive the only thing her Harvard educated doctors and nurses could never provide,” said Stabile-Toole, “a new heart.”
“Without this lifesaving gift, Avery absolutely would have died,” she said.
“Today she is attending Kindergarten,” said Stabile-Toole. “She is a breathtakingly beautiful little girl who is living life fully in every way.”
But how did this come about?
It was because the grieving parents of a terrific 8-year-old boy named Dalton Lawyer wanted their child’s wonderfulness to live on and help others — and for whom and for Dalton’s gifts the Stabiles, the Tooles, and the families of three other children saved by Dalton are forever grateful.
“Dalton Lawyer was a shockingly handsome boy,” said Stabile-Toole.
“He was idolized by his three triplet brothers, adored by his mom and dad, admired by his many friends, and,” she added, “appropriately swooned over by every girl who met him.”
“Dalton was a born leader,” said Stabile-Toole, “and was without a doubt destined to make an amazing mark in life.”
That life, however, was sadly, tragically cut short.
“On July 30th, 2009, at 6:29 p.m.,” said Stabile-Toole, “Dalton kissed his mom good-bye, yelled ‘I love you,’ and hopped on his bike to go watch his cousin at cheerleading practice.”
“One minute later,” she said, “he was hit by a truck as he left his driveway.”
Stabile-Toole said that after a week in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Dalton was sadly pronounced brain dead on Aug. 5.
Hours later, and hundreds of miles away, the phone rang at Stabile-Toole’s, and the news of Dalton’s gift of life was first heard.
Avery soon received Dalton’s life-giving donation, and his mark on life continued on.
“He left a legacy that would truly change the lives of many,” said Stabile-Toole.
“Dalton Lawyer saved three other lives through his extraordinary gift of life,” she said.
“His parents, in the absolutely worst moment of their lives, asked to donate their son’s organs, knowing there was no hope for anything else,” she said.
“Dalton Lawyer was eight years old and saved four lives,” said Stabile-Toole. “We love him, and he will be dearly missed forever.”
Stabile-Toole said the part not to be overlooked in all this is that organ donations are still needed, always needed, and always welcomed with love and gratitude.
“Every year,” she said, “hundreds of adults and children die waiting for a lifesaving gift through organ donation.”
“It is not something most of us think about for ourselves, and certainly not for our children,” she said, “and hopefully, you will never need to.”
“However, the painful reality is life is not fair, and tragedy does not discriminate,” she said.
“We are all vulnerable, and in many cases,” she said, “despite our best intentions, completely lack the ability to change them.”
“Register to become an organ donor today,” she said. “You, or the life of someone precious to you could be saved by this simple act.”
“Please don’t wait for the worst time in your life to make this decision,” she said.
Cheryl Stabile-Toole perhaps sums it up best.
“So,” she said, “I ask you — what’s your legacy?”