2016 Bethany Conkel
Riding in honor of her son Amalya Nathaniel Conkel
Age 29 ~ Dayton, OH
Neonatal Donation Advocate
Honored by mtf.org
In March of 2012, at an early ultrasound, Bethany and her husband, learned their unborn baby had a terminal neural tube defect and would pass away in utero or shortly after birth. They decided to carry the child to term and named their little boy Amalya Nathaniel meaning “work of the Lord, given by God.” In order to make the most of Amalya’s life, Bethany pursued organ donation. Amalya’s liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated for research and in return, have already begun saving lives due to the knowledge gained. This year, Bethany honors Amalya by participating as a rider on this year’s float. In order to honor their son, Bethany and her husband have started a nonprofit entitled Purposeful Gift in order to educate and facilitate other families through neonatal organ donation.
In March of 2012, at an early ultrasound, my husband and I learned our unborn baby had a terminal neural tube defect called anencephaly. Sadly, there is no cure and, typically, babies with anencephaly pass away in utero or shortly after birth. Despite this devastating diagnosis, we chose to continue our pregnancy, embrace our baby’s life, shower him with love, and make as many memories as possible. We named our son Amalya Nathaniel meaning “work of the Lord, given by God.”
Not only did we want to make the most of Amalya’s life, but we wanted to make the most of his unpreventable death and allow him to impact others. To fulfill this desire, we decided to pursue organ and whole body donation. During our pursuit, we faced many obstacles, were given misinformation, and were repeatedly told donation was not possible.
After six months of determination, research and persistence, we experienced a miracle. Three days before my scheduled caesarian delivery, we learned that our son could donate his liver, pancreas, and whole body. Each of his donations went directly to the medical researchers to advance knowledge, train medical professionals, and help improve treatments for pediatric patients facing illness. Amalya’s donation was facilitated by Life Connection of Ohio, and his organs placed with researchers through the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM), a division of the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF).
After donation, we were thrilled to receive letters from each of the researchers who utilized Amalya’s gifts. Through these letters we learned his donations have directly saved pediatric lives through knowledge learned and new procedures developed. Our experience has made us passionate about the importance of donation options for neonatal donors. We have worked closely with IIAM and MTF to make sure donation is possible for babies facing a terminal diagnosis. My husband and I have founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Purposeful Gift (www.purposefulgift.com) to help educate other families.
For us, donation was able to add an extra layer of meaning to Amalya’s brief 37 weeks in utero and 80 minutes alive in our arms. Donation has truly brought us unexplainable peace, joy, and healing.