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Engineering student Sanaz Nezami, 27, was rushed to the hospital last month, after what police say was a brutal beating by her new husband. She was declared brain-dead shortly afterwards. Her family was in Iran.
The nurses who cared for her looked her up online and found her family. They set up video messaging so the family could see that their daughter was being well cared for in her final days.
To the nurses, it was a profound experience. They became Sanaz's substitute family, with family in Iran asking them to stroke Sanaz's hair and kiss her forehead.
Hospital supervisor Gail Brandly says never in her 30-year career has someone done what Sanaz's father did. He had nurses recite a prayer he'd written, as surgeons removed her organs for donation.
The prayer was "God, I give my daughter to you so that she may save many great lives, because we are all your children." Sanaz's organs saved the lives of seven people.
Brandly discusses the experience with Here & Now's Robin Young.
Interview Highlights: Gail Brandly
On connecting the Nezami family with their daughter
"This is a parent’s worse nightmare come true. And every parent just wants to know that their child is – if they are hurt, they’re surrounded by people that care. And they want to be able to say goodbye to their child and they should have that opportunity. So we were bound and determined that we were going to make that possible. And this was a truly loving family, and there were many of them. I actually met many of the family members, and then eventually, it got to the point where we did discuss the organ donation. The moment I looked at this girl's resume, I knew that she would want to be an organ donor. And her family didn't hesitate. They said yes right away and truly believed in helping others."
On what the experience meant to the nurses involved
"It really gave us a lot of faith in humanity. [The family] really taught us about the Muslim traditions, and they really taught us a lot about the humanity on the other side of the world. We’re basically the same people, and that’s the message that this family wants to get across and that’s what we believe. It was a pretty profound experience. I think that every nurse wants to be involved in situations that help people, and I just feel a great sense of inner peace that we were able to provide the family with good care at the end of life and the grieving process."
"I've been a nurse for 30 years and I've been involved in organ donation – I’m actually the organ donation liaison at our hospital – and I've never had a family give me a prayer to read in the operating room. He asked us to read to the transplant team when they arrived before the recovery began, 'God I give you my child, so that she may save many great lives, for we are all your children.' And for a father, that just really gives you a sense of his character."
On the impact of the organ donation
"It's not just the seven lives that [Sanaz Nezami] saved, she also helped thousands of people. For one thing, everyone that loves those people are all affected by this transplant. She’s caused awareness, and has really done great things. I mean, she’s a hero."
- Gail Brandly, nurse supervisor at Marquette Hospital in Marquette, Mich.
This segment aired on January 22, 2014.