The past few days, I've been following the story of a three year old boy who's waiting for a heart donor. He was first diagnosed with a heart condition when he was 10 months old, and his heart suddenly stopped functioning properly two days after this past Christmas. On 6 January, doctors attached an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to him to keep him alive until a heart could be found. His parents started sending mass emails to help find that heart, and it got to the media as well.
No heart has been found yet, and the boy is slipping away as I type. He's no on 2 ECMO machines, and his arms, legs, ears and nose are starting to turn purple from lack of oxygenation. If a heart of a child under 30 kg and is type O or A is not found before Monday, he will probably die.
His parents have been interviewed by the media every day since Tuesday, asking for people's help. I interviewed them three times myself, and every single time, I wanted to cry.
This afternoon, the father told us that his son was taken off one of two sedatives and was slightly responsive to their voice. Between sobs and big gulps of air, he said when he went into the ICU to visit, he saw tears come out of his son's closed eyes, and that he knew his son wanted to live, and called out to people to help them.
It was so sad. I was so sad.
Part of the reason we kept reporting on this was because we wanted to help them find a heart. We hoped that the more exposure we gave them, the greater the chances of someone donating a heart. However, this type of reporting is also quite controversial.
One argument is that we shouldn't commoditize someone else's pain and suffering. Another is that it's unfair to others who need the help of the media, because we're reporting on these people and not them. And the third is that if we help this boy get a heart, we're helping the donor child die. It's difficult, and I want to believe that we're doing good for the boy who is lying in ICU right now. We can't help or please everybody, but we hope to help at least somebody.