By Dennis Minich
Gini-Lee Rose Whitcraft lived only 141 days, but has left a trail of love which will touch many lives for years to come.
The 4-month-old daughter of Jodie and Maria “Mia” Whitcraft of West Line entered Children’s Mercy Hospital July 30 and she died the following day.
Shortly after admission her family was told she would never go home. At that point her parents made a life-changing decision. They would donate Gini-Lee’s organs.
“I knew she was not coming home, but I knew by donating organs, so other mothers would be able to take their infants home,” Maria said. “It was actually a pretty easy decision. We couldn’t save her. If her organs could save another person’s life, why not donate them, she isn’t going to use them.”
Because of that donation, a 55-year-old man, somewhere in the Midwest received a new kidney; a 1-month old boy received a new heart and the liver was sent to a 7-month old girl.
Although some organs and blood were not usable for donation, others may have been used, but the family is unaware of what or where. Most donations made through the Midwest Organ Donor Directory are private and donors don’t know the details of the recipients.
“Donating means she is never really gone, which I think has helped us with the grieving process,” Maria said.
Paternal grandparents Don and Alicia Whitcraft praise the decision and strength of their son and Maria.
“We are so proud of our son and daughter-in-law,” Don said. “The are our pillars through the storm.”
Gini-Lee’s medical issues began long before she was born. At her 20-week checkup, Maria was told she had placenta previa, a condition caused when the placenta slips down into the birth canal.
“They told me at 20 weeks when they did the ultra sound,” Maria said. “When they did another at 32 weeks, they said it had adjusted back and said I was fine to resume my normal activities.”
Some of that routine included taking care of three children; Joesph, 11; Lilly-Faye, 6, and Dakota, 19 months.
A C-section was planned for March 15, but on March 12, Maria suffered a placenta eruption which could have caused her to bleed to death. She was taken to St. Luke’s East Hospital, Lee’s Summit, where the delivery took place and Gini-Lee was transferred to a NICU at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. There, ice sheets were used to slow down her developmental process which could have put too much stress on the brain.
According to Alicia, from there things got better.
“They took her into the NICU and said she would be there 10 days to two weeks. But they did a great job and she improved quickly and was home in seven days. We said she was our miracle,” Alicia said.
Maria said Gini-Lee was actually doing very well and was reaching her growth milestones. But Maria said the family had been warned because of the baby’s health issues, seizures were a possibility. The first seizure occurred July 3. The baby was rushed to Children’s Mercy, but since the seizure had already ceased, doctors were unable to diagnose the cause.
Four weeks later, at about 9:30 a.m., 19-month-old Dakota woke his mother up saying something was wrong with the baby. Maria said she found Gini-Lee, who had turned purple and rushed her to Children’s Mercy. It was shortly thereafter they got the diagnosis. A representative from the transplant network came in to explain their options.
“They were so wonderful about it,” Maria said. “They said the first priority was to try and save Gini-Lee’s life, but if that didn’t happen, what they could do. Everyone from the transplant team and everyone at the hospital were so wonderful to us.”
The story of how the kidneys could be transplanted into a 55-year-old man was another interesting twist, according to the family members.
Alicia said, “They harvested both kidneys and all of the connecting parts and that way they could create one kidney for an adult.”
Maria said whether the organs held a child or an adult, she is happy with her decision.
“A life is a life,” she said.
She added the support of family has helped the family through the ordeal.
“We have a lot of mixed emotions. It hurts, we are devastated, but we had to stay strong for our children. I think the key word is united, we couldn’t have gotten through this without the support of each other, Maria said.
She added she hopes the story could have one more positive impact.
“I hope this will get other people to consider organ donation. They said very few people who lose infants donate. But donation is something everybody can do,” Maria said.