Portrait of a Donor (Short Story)


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Benefis Health System donor to be honored on Donate Life Float at Rose Parade

An exclusive ebook original short story by the author of Starters. About the Author Lissa Price Lissa Price is an award-winning, internationally bestselling author whose debut Starters is published in over thirty countries. Read more. Also by Lissa Price. Related titles. Love, Simon. Undercover Princess.

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National Portrait Gallery drops £1m donor

The Reader. Though they never had the chance to meet, Jake MacKinnon and Kalem Millard probably would have been friends. Growing up in rural Petaluma, CA, where the MacKinnons had a big backyard and a barn, Jake "was a real rancher kid," says Janice, 56, a teacher's aide. At first Janice and her husband, Gary, 58, a truck weigh master, helped Jake manage the disease with blood sugar checks and insulin shots. But over the next several years, Jake's symptoms grew severe. Even scarier, when his blood sugar swung to extremes, Jake had seizures that sometimes required him to be hospitalized.

As Jake grew sicker, his quality of life plummeted. Doctors put him on the pancreas transplant list. Meanwhile, three hours southeast of Petaluma, in the working-class town of Living ston, CA, Tish Millard's son, Kalem, was dreaming of becoming a firefighter. An outgoing, charismatic young man who loved snowboarding and fishing, he was "adventurous," says Tish, "and funny. He used to wear his snowboarding goggles on his head all the time. And he liked to eat clam chowder out of the can, cold. I love you.

When asked to describe their relationship, Tish pauses. Doctors spent three days trying to relieve the swelling of Kalem's brain, but there was too much damage for him to be saved. The Millards realized the outcome would be out of their control — but they hoped their son's organs would go to save another young person that Christmas.


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On December 15, the MacKinnons received the phone call that changed their lives: Doctors had found a pancreas donor. But Jake was nervous. He walked out the door to their backyard to be alone.

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I can't live like this anymore. The surgery went perfectly. Afterward, Jake's doctors said he would no longer need constant monitoring; at last he could live a normal life. Janice should have been elated, yet she couldn't let go of the idea that some mother out there had lost a child. That was hard to accept. A few days later, she had an idea. The following May, after planting the sapling, Janice ached to share her thanks with the donor's family. So she wrote a note, enclosing with it pictures of the tree.

Portrait of a Donor (Starters, #) by Lissa Price

To Janice's surprise, a week later Tish responded. The next December, after dozens of letters and phone calls, the Millards drove to the MacKinnons' home to help them light Kalem's tree for the first time. Once Janice opened the door, "we hugged," she says.

When the time came to light the tree, Jake's sister, Katie, read a poem. Afterward, "we gave [the Millards] some alone time," Janice says. Tish and Bill tried to hide their tears. But from afar, Janice could see that they were crying.

pt.tyqefojina.tk Later that night, Tish pulled Jake and Janice aside. Tish and Janice started talking regularly on the phone after that, meeting for birthdays, and taking their husbands out to dinner and baseball games. When the MacKinnons' daughter got married, Tish and Bill were the first people she invited — and the Millards invited the MacKinnons when Kalem's sister Karri celebrated her wedding.


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