Mary Bartleson says most days since her daughter died are just unbearable, but she receives some comfort in knowing her child’s organs helped other children live.
Bartleson said she often replays in her mind the circumstances surrounding the September death of her 2-year-old daughter, Emily Hernandez. Prosecutors allege Mary’s former boyfriend caused Emily’s death by shaking her.
Bartleson never left her daughter’s side after Emily was taken to the hospital. During her vigil, she said, tears of shock, torment and anger flowed for hours.
Emily’s brain began to swell, and surgery did not help. As hospital personnel tended to Emily in her final hours, Mary was offered the option of donating her little girl’s organs.
"I was praying, and something inside of me said, ‘Maybe I can still help other people,’” Bartleson said. Six hours after Emily’s organs were recovered, Bartleson was notified that two Texas children had received her kidneys and liver.
Bartleson donated Emily’s organs though LifeShare Donor Transplant Services, Oklahoma’s organ and tissue organization. In honor of her daughter, she wears a silver LifeShare pendant around her neck.
Her short life
"Emily was a good child,” Bartleson said. "She liked anything with Tinker Bell — purse, shirt — no matter what.”
Emily liked to play dress-up and already had a growing collection of shoes. She liked to imitate her older sister, Jessica.
"She was entering the age (that) when we would tell her no, she would look at us and do it anyway,” Bartleson said.
When Emily was born, a family member gave her a stuffed bear. When she got older she called the bear "Mr. Man.”
Teddy bears are engraved on each side of Emily’s name on her tombstone, her mother said.
Phil Van Stavern, director of communications for LifeShare Donor Transplant Services, said Emily’s heart valves and tissue were recovered.
Organs are recovered after brain death occurs while the donor remains on a respirator. That stipulation means that only a small number of people qualify as donors, Van Stavern said. The organs of nine Oklahoma children who died last year were donated, Van Stavern said. Organs are routinely shared across state lines if Oklahoma does not have an appropriate patient, he said.
Currently there are 13 Oklahoma children on the organ donation waiting list, Van Stavern said. Seven children are waiting for a liver, and six are waiting for kidneys. Four are under 10 years old.
"The biggest misconception about organ donation is that people think if you are sick and the hospital knows you are an organ donor, they do not work as hard to save your life,” he said. "I cannot stress enough this is totally false.”
Emily died Sept. 1 at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa from blunt head trauma after being on life support for a day.
Roger L. Dry, 35, of Eucha, has been charged in Delaware County District Court with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors said Dry was alone with Emily when she began to cry, so Dry spanked her to get her to quit crying. After the toddler vomited on Dry, he struck her, picked her up by the ears and shook her hard six or seven times, according to court testimony. The autopsy report showed the child had multiple bruises on her body.
Dry remains in jail on $1 million bail. On Jan. 14, he was ordered to stand trial on the murder charge.