Sheri’s Wish – The Gift of a Lifetime

The Rushing Family prior to Sheri's death. Photo/submitted

“Sheri didn’t feel good all week and thought she had the flu,” explained Scott Rushing, Sheri’s husband.   Scott wasn’t normally at home during the day.  But on Friday, March 23, 2018, he was home recovering from gall bladder surgery. It was a Tuesday.  The following is an excerpt from Scott’s written account of that morning and the following few days:

“. . . I actually felt okay as long as I didn’t move any muscles in my abdomen. About 8:30 a.m. Sheri said a walk would be a good idea to ‘loosen up’ so I did what most husbands of 25 years would do – I went for a walk.  Looking back, Sheri seemed tired and she didn’t look like her usual self; her color wasn’t normal.  When I got back from my walk about 9 a.m., Sheri was in the kitchen.  She said she definitely had the flu.  She got her cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table while I went to the couch to read the news on my IPad.  At about 9:15 a.m., I heard what I thought was coffee spilling.  Being in the living room, I could not see her in the kitchen.  I remember saying, ‘Hey, did you spill your coffee?’ At the same time, Sheri’s mom, Ann, was walking into the kitchen.  ‘Scott, Sheri is blue’ is the next thing I heard!  I rolled off the couch and went straight to the kitchen.

Sheri was slumped over in the chair and she was blue.  Sheri was by no means a large woman – she was tall, 5’10” and about 140 pounds.  Ann and I got Sheri on the floor and I began to do what I have been trained to do for 32 years, CPR. This time was definitely different.  My patient was my wife.  I had my county issued emergency portable radio in the house by the coffee pot – I am a volunteer fire/EMR in Jones County – it is usually in my Tahoe. So, I reached for my radio and pressed the talk button, ‘Calhoun 2, Code Blue with my wife, (home address).  The dispatcher was on top of my emergency.   He professionally coordinated fire, rescue, ambulance and sheriff’s departments.  His voice was so smooth, almost cold like, but confident.  I did one round of CPR and remembered I am a d--- EMR with 30 plus years of experience.  I have a fully stocked trauma kit and AED in my Tahoe.  I stopped CPR and got my gear out of the Tahoe and started using it.  After the second round of CPR I honestly didn’t think I could go anymore.  I felt like every stitch in my stomach was ripped out. I called back to dispatch and asked for a deputy in the area to help.  I literally needed anyone in the area to help.  I didn’t hear it over my radio, but there were four deputies already headed my way.  After about three or four minutes, the first fireman from my volunteer department, Tyler, walked through the door.  He was off work that day at home and responded to my call for help.  We agreed that he would do chest compression and I would manage her airway.  That seemed to work for the most part.  The first deputy arrived in about five minutes and took over my duties. The paramedics, firemen and deputies all arrived at the house within six or seven minutes.  Someone, I still don’t remember who, suggested I step outside to get some air and that was a good idea at the time.  I was white as a ghost.  I asked the paramedic, Sherry, what rhythm Sheri was producing and it was obvious when I saw the cardiac monitor – asystole.  I remember Sherry saying ‘Scott, we are not giving up.’  Sherry and the two other medics, Blane and Rene, continued to work on Sheri.  They never stopped, never gave up.”

Although they were able to get a pulse back on the way to the hospital, #Sheri never regained consciousness.  The ER physician at South Central Regional Medical Center where Sheri was taken confirmed that Sheri had pneumonia, and he thought she may have thrown a blood clot or had a massive heart attack. At about 6 p.m. that evening, Scott met with the cardiologist, a longtime friend, and the hospitalist.  Although they would not commit to a final diagnosis, Sheri was considered to be brain dead “due to lack of oxygen to the brain,” even though CPR had been administered almost immediately. Sheri had been in cardiac arrest for approximately 35 minutes. 

“It is then when I realized my sons’ mother, my wife of 25 years and 11 months, would probably not make it home,” wrote Scott.  “That was the first time the doctor asked about Sheri’s wishes as they related to organ donation.”

Sheri was an RN, and according to Scott she had an opportunity to work with transplant teams at the University of Cincinnati crisis hospital prior to moving to Mississippi.  Sheri and Scott have two sons: Christian, who was 20 at the time, and Colin, who was 10.  When Christian was born, Sheri, being a dutiful and caring nurse, insisted they create a will and a living will. The decision for Sheri to be an organ donor was already made by her.

“It was her wish,” said Scott.  “All I had to do was go to the living will on page 2, chapter 3, to find what to do.  I was not in the right mental state on that Friday night to make that decision.”

Scott met with the M.O.R.A. (Mississippi Organ Recovery Organization) on Sunday to review paperwork, review what would be harvested and sign authorizations. 

“Nothing can prepare you for that visit,” exclaimed Scott. “When they begin the conversation and end it, you finally realize this is it.”

On Monday, March 26, 2018, at 10:30 a.m., Sheri was officially pronounced deceased by a board-certified physician but was still breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

By sharing his story, Scott hopes to encourage others to get their business in order.

Get your financial matters in order,” suggested Rushing.  “Maintain an accurate and an easy to find three-ring binder with banks accounts, passwords, and other important financial data to keep in a safe or safety deposit box. It’s okay to share passwords with your spouse.  Thank goodness Sheri and I did.”

In addition, Scott wants to encourage people to consider being a donor and prepare a living will.

“It’s a highly personal choice,” exclaimed Scott, “but when something bad does happen, something good can come out of it.”

About a month after Sheri’s death, Scott received a letter, through M.O.R.A., from a 57-year old man from Jacksonville, Fla., who received a lifesaving liver transplant thanks to Sheri. 

The letter was addressed to “My Donor, my Angel.”  He wrote to Sheri, his angel, and then to “my Angel’s family.”  “I am so sorry for your lost loved one, but want you to know the kindness of them being a donor has changed my life.”

According to national statistics from organdonor.gov, approximately 113,000 men, women, and children are on the national transplant waiting list; 36,528 transplants were performed in 2018; 95% of U.S. adults support organ donation but only 58% are actually signed up as donors; but only three people out of 1,000 die in a way that allows for organ donation.

 

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