Organ Donor Sean-The Orlando Times
6-Year-Old Organ Donor Becomes Real Life Superhero
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Sean Michael Bridges Rivera gave others a second chance at life when his parents approved for his organs to be donated.
Born to Michael Bridges and Giselle Rivera on March 23, 2014, Sean grew up the second and youngest child of his family. He enjoyed various hobbies around Orlando including fishing with his father and grandad and playing basketball. His grandmother, Rynette Upson-Bush, particularly recalls how he enjoyed putting on a cape and running around the house pretending to be a superhero-imitating PJ Masks and Spiderman- his favorites.
“The fact that he actually saved lives, he’s a superhero now,” said Upson-Bush, his paternal grandmother. “I miss him, I’m heartbroken, and my life will never be the same. But he is a superhero, he’s our hero.”
Sean passed away on April 1, 2020.
“Sean was a vibrant spirit. He only lived 6 very short years but was always happy, sweet, and grateful,” said his mother. “The accident that occurred 2 days after his 6th birthday ended his life but as a mother I’m grateful he was mine, because even in his death he saved me.”
Sean would go on to also save the lives of four other people who were able to be given life-saving organs. His organ surgery took place on April 3, 2020.
“His father and I made the decision to donate his organs,” his mother said. “Honestly I was afraid to donate once they told me my 6-year-old son was considered brain dead. I was afraid because I didn’t want my son’s body to be mutilated or cut open.”
Rivera sought out the advice of her pastor Clint Brown from Judah Church. He asked her if an organ donation could save Sean’s life would she take advantage of it? After she responded with an immediate “absolutely”, he told her to pray about her response.
“I know in my heart that I wouldn’t wish this pain I feel on anybody in this world. A parent should never bury their child. But God’s plan was different from mine and I saw an opportunity to help others. An opportunity to use the darkest moment of my life to give another child a second chance at life,” she said.
Sean’s kidney, heart, and lungs were among the organs that were able to be donated.
“It was definitely the decision of his parents which I think was so outstanding and such a brave thing to do,” said Upson-Bush. “[Sean’s] other grandparents were there too and [his parents] asked everybody what they thought. I’m just really proud of them as parents for making that decision and prayers behind it.”
The operation took place at Arnold Palmer Hospital.
“I had never really been a part of anybody donating organs and to be honest I always felt that when you’re an organ donor they just admitted you to die so they could get rid of you so they could give your organs away but that was not the case here,” said Upson-Bush. “The hospital was really great, they were phenomenal. They explained everything and were very compassionate and sympathetic.”
The family appreciated Arnold Palmer’s ‘honor walk’. This is when everyone, including doctors and nurses, line up as they take the patient for organ removal, the family walks behind the bed and right before they enter the surgery room something is read about the patient. Afterwards they put a picture of the patient on a wall, commemorating them as an organ donor.
“Honestly Organ donation is bittersweet. Knowing Sean helped 4 other young souls, 4 other families to believe in miracles and hope is an understatement. But I still have to live with the fact that I don’t have my son and it hurts,” said Rivera.
They have found some comfort in being able to connect with the mother of one of the recipients. They said they feel connected to them now and they are looking forward to meeting them in person one day.
“My advice to others is to breath and think about the legacy you want to leave behind. Life happens and it sucks sometimes but saving lives is God’s work. And if he can use your love one to do it, we should let his will be done,” said Rivera.
While Sean recent death is still weighing heavy on his family, his mother plans to eventually begin advocate for organ donation.
“Organ donation is important because even through the storm God’s purpose is grander than anything we can fathom. I am honored to be the mother of a little boy that even through his death can impact other lives,” she said. “Sean’s story does not end April 1, 2020. Parts of him are still working through others for God’s will.”