LIFELINE by Mary Zimmeth Schomaker


How One Night Changed Five Lives, A True Story
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 Well-paced medical drama featuring one organ donor and the four organ recipients whose lives are saved by his death. Schomaker, whose previous book dealt with Guillain-BarrÇ syndrome, has reconstructed the events triggered one evening in January 1991, when Donald Mills, a middle-aged Ph.D. candidate, suffered fatal head injuries while bicycling to a Minneapolis library. (Mills's name is real, but the names of all other people and of the medical facilities have been changed.) Once Mills is declared brain-dead, Lifeline, the regional organ procurement center, moves swiftly to secure his next-of-kin's permission to harvest his heart, liver, and kidneys. The heart goes to Rudy, suffering from degenerative heart disease and with only one day remaining on his medical insurance. Patty, an eight-year-old with fulminant hepatitis, is given the liver. One kidney goes to Kate, a young diabetic whose pregnancy has led to kidney failure, and the other to Roger, a 35-year-old man whose year on dialysis has sent him into a deep depression. Complications and close calls abound: Rudy's ambulance has to be led by snowplow through many miles of Minnesota blizzard; Roger is holding a gun to his temple when his pager beeps, signaling that a life-saving kidney has just become available; Donald's adult liver is too large to fit into a Patty's small body and must be cut down. Especially memorable is the scene in which Donald's elderly and somewhat confused aunt is persuaded by a friend of Donald's and by a priest to grant permission to remove his organs. The coordination and timing involved in organ transplantation are well described, and the nurses and doctors, the patients and their families all come across as real individuals, but more details on how organ recipients are selected would have strengthened the story. High on human interest; low on medical particulars.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-88282-135-0
Page count: 308pp
Publisher: New Horizon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1995