15 December 2000
8:00 PM EST
Thanksgiving at the Ronald McDonald House went great! There were lots of volunteers there, and the "Megan" contingent showed
up in grand force as well. 4 turkeys, 2 hams and about a dozen side-dishes were prepared for the 9 families who were residing in the house at the
time. Pat OíRourke actually took some of the "scraps" from the turkeys to make one of her famous turkey soups. I am told that the left-overs were
more than enough to feed the resident families through the weekend. As for me, well, peeling 70 lbs of potatoes was a bit of a task,....but well
worth the effort when we all got to sit down and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with family, friends and residents of the house. If anything, it was one
small gesture to return the generosity when Megan and her family spent months at the Ronald McDonald house in Baltimore when she received
her transplant and people down there did the same. In line with the sentiments of the holiday, it was a time to be thankful, but a time to give. I
thank all of the people who showed up to help, showed up to help people who truly needed our support in a time of need. It was a great
Thanksgiving in every meaning of the day!
IntroductionSometimes, things are best told in a story.
Once upon a time, Mark & Nancy Hayward and their 3 children, Patrick, Kelsey and Megan, were living life like most normal families. The American Dream, a happy home, friends and family.
At the age of 2 Ĺ, their youngest daughter Megan was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma. Within 6 months, both father and daughter would lie on operating tables as Mark donated 45% of his liver to replace his daughterís liver. An organ donor and a recipient in the same family. Parents usually only have the opportunity to give life to their children once. Meganís father did it twice!
But, why honor this family rather than just the donor and recipient? Let me tell you. The Hayward Family has opened their home and their lives to everyone who is going through this kind of experience. They have focused their lifeís efforts on bringing awareness to organ donation and transplant programs.
From Dad to Mom, Patrick, Kelsey and Megan, there has not been a moment when this life-altering event hasnít been a part of what they share with others. They all reach out in support groups, fundraisers, the Transplant Olympics, ......they have a web site telling the story of Megan,.....but most of all,....they have shared with all of us just how important organ donation is. It saved the life of Megan, and it can save the lives of countless thousands. The "Gift of Life" is not only in organ donation, it is in teaching, sharing, and education. The Hayward Family has done all of that and more.
I am not an organ recipient, but in my many years of being a part of the Hayward Family, I feel as if the "heart" of this family has been transplanted into me. Their love of life, their love for others, is something you cannot help but be a part of.
At this time, I would like to introduce this yearís Donor Family Award recipient: my friends, my family, the people who have taught me and so many others about "The Gift of Life": The Hayward Family!
Donor Family Award Program NotesThe Outstanding Donor Family award is given to the Hayward Family in recognition of their unique contributions to organ donor awareness. This family has both an organ donor and organ recipient!
June 1998, Mark and Nancy Hayward took 2 Ĺ year old Megan to the doctors because of a small bump on her abdomen. What seemingly was an insignificant blemish ultimately was diagnosed as hepatoblastoma, an extremely rare form of liver cancer. The arduous life-threatening battles facing them would soon alter their lives and that of thousands of others.
A community of family and friends from across the nation united in support of the Hayward family as Meganís medical treatments began. The tumor in her liver was the size of a grapefruit. To shrink the cancerous tumor to a point where resection would be possible required extensive chemotherapy. On December 15, 1998, after 6 rounds of chemotherapy, doctors performed exploratory surgery. They determined the tumor was centered over the hepatic veins and that Megan would need a liver transplant.
New Years Eve 1998, Meganís father, who shares her same blood type, was informed by doctors at John Hopkins Hospital that they were a match. Just 7 short days later, January 7, 1999, and one week before her 3'rd birthday, Megan received the 2 left lobes of her fatherís liver, removing all of her cancerous liver in the 32'nd living related donor operation to be performed.
As the months passed, the Hayward Family, through many television and newspaper interviews have made people aware of both the importance of organ donation and the trials of childhood cancer. Their efforts have also given awareness to many organizations which have helped them including, The Tomorrow Fund, Ronald McDonald House, "US Transplant Games", and RI Coalition for Donor Awareness.
Support of organizations that help donor patients and families soon became the major social events for the Hayward Family. At each event, many friends and family members accompanied them. This group of supporters is often seen wearing a "Megan pin" (a candle of hope) signifying Meganís battle with cancer. When asked about the pin, Meganís story will be told and sources of assistance will be referenced. Meganís story is also told through updates on her website: http://www.deionassociates.com/megan
In June 2000, Megan and 22 friends and family traveled to Disney World to watch her participate in the 2000 US Transplant Games. Meganís father Mark was honored with the Organ Donor Award, and Megan was honored with a Gold Medal when she won the girlís 2-5 year old softball throw.
Despite the personal pain and grief, and rather than trying to find comfort in privacy, the Hayward Family has shared their lives and their experiences for all to see. They have shown others how to cope by sharing their story. They have opened up the eyes of thousands to sources of help and assistance. Today, the smile in the eyes of little Megan now serve as a beacon of hope and awareness for countless others, and with her, the entire Hayward Family has truly shared lifeís most precious gift as Meganís Candle shines for all.
The National Kidney Foundation congratulates and applauds the Hayward Family on receiving the Donor Family Award. Thank you for your courage.
Christmas and Hanakkuh now approach us. I think back to merely 2 years ago, when many of us prayed to God for the "safe-keeping" of Megan and her father as they made their way into a journey which only God could guide them through. Despite the many religions which exist (and I have backgrounds in both Catholic and Jewish), I know that many people prayed 2 years ago, and they have continued to pray since then.
There are many religions in this world of ours, there are many beliefs. I have experienced many of these religions, believe many of their beliefs, and although one could say that there are conflicts in my participating in numerous religions, .... I tend to look upon it as a way of universally reaching out to God. When I look into the eyes of Megan, there is only one God I speak to. That God is the God who looks over all of us, be it Catholic, Jewish, Hindu or whatever. Wherever families and their children live, there are religions and beliefs indicative of the culture and the people. But what I have found, is that the love of families is the same, wherever one might be.
Itís not the belief in religion that makes the difference, itís the belief in God, the God you believe in. And I know that many people of many religions have prayed for Megan and her family. And the God of all religions has blessed us all with the miracle of Megan for these past few years, and just maybe, we have all been blessed ourselves.
So, as the Seasons of Joy approach, rest assured that your prayers and efforts have helped to bring a smile into the eyes of Megan and her Family. I canít think of a greater gift for all of us to have received, than to know how to make a child giggle with joy. Share this gift with your family and friends and the circle will have been completed.
On behalf of Megan and her Family,
Best Wishes for the Holidays and God Bless You All!!
A Community Service of: