Organ donor message in a bottle washes up in Cayman

In these days of emails, tweets and Facebook, an old-world method of communication carrying a tale of the marvels of modern medicine put a smile on the face of Patricia Wright, who literally found a message in a bottle on South Sound beach. 

As Ms Wright was taking her weekly walk along the beach one recent Sunday morning, she spotted a clear, glass bottle sticking out of the sand. Inside the embossed bottle, sealed with a cork bearing a regal crown, were some rolled up papers. 

“I go to that beach to pray every Sunday, I’ve been doing that for four years. The sea was really rough that day so instead of walking down the beach, I stayed in one place for about half an hour. Then I moved down the beach past the big house there and when I got down there, I noticed that there was this bottle… It was in the bank of sand, on the slope, sticking up in the sand. 

“It was sealed, there was no water in it. The bottle was clear and clean and I noticed it had paper in it. I turned it upside down. I was so curious about it…. I walked to the top of the slope with it and I prayed over the bottle… I broke the bottle and inside were three papers and a coupon on coloured paper. The papers were written in French, Spanish and English,” she said. 

The notes tell of a heart transplant recipient taking part in an international 2,540-mile yacht race from the west coast of France to the Azores in the northern Atlantic. 

The English version of the note read: “Eleven months ago, I could not walk more than 30 metres in one go. Today, thanks to the generosity of one unknown person who gave me a heart – I can pretend to the normal practice of a sport and think of a future. Sincere thanks to him and his family as well as to all of you who took the decision to say “yes” to organ transplant.” 

The note, which says it was sent by French sports and culture support organisation Benevoles du Littoral Olonnois, indicated that it had been dropped overboard during a yacht race from France to the Azores in July 2011. It did not have the name of the person who had purportedly received the heart transplant, but included an email address of the French organisation to which the author urged the recipient of the bottle to write and say where the message had washed up. 

Ms Wright has sent an email to the address, as has the Caymanian Compass, but no reply has been received.  

According to the message, the bottle was placed in the Atlantic Ocean off the French west coast near Les Sables-d’Olonne, from a Class 40 yacht, designed for racing single handed or by small crews, during a race from Les Sables to Horta in the Azores and back.  

The coupon contained in the bottle was an application for an organ donor card. 

In a twist of coincidental timing, Ms Wright found the bottle on 24 March, the day before the Cayman Islands Government approved a new law to legalise organ donations and transplants in the Cayman Islands. 

Up until now, it has been illegal to donate or transplant human organs or tissues. Living organ donors and recipients from Cayman have had to travel overseas for the operations. 

“I think of how wonderful it is that somebody now is living a normal life because someone donated a heart. That’s a blessing,” Ms Wright said. Now that organ donations will be legal in Cayman, “if people can do that and help somebody else, that would be amazing,” she added. 

After finding the bottle, she went, as usual every Sunday, to the home of her friends James and Gretel Rawcliffe for coffee and showed them the notes. They urged her to go back and get the bottle, which Mr. Rawcliffe then photographed and sent to the Compass. 

Mr. Rawcliffe said he thought the bottle must have drifted some 4,800 miles to reach Cayman. “[It’s] an exceptional feat of navigation, as well as a heart-felt message,” he said. 

The notes told of a heart transplant recipient taking part in an international yacht race. 

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The message in the bottle.
Photo: Submitted

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Patricia Wright with the message she found in a bottle on the beach.
PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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