I’ve never been one to put much thought into my Halloween costumes. My most, er, interesting one to date was the Hester Prynne outfit — the fictional adulteress of The Scarlett Letter fame — I fashioned for myself in high school. (At the time, some assumed the giant “A” emblazoned on my dress stood for Alice. Sigh.)
Once I became a mother, however, any thoughts I had of dressing up for the holiday went out the window; I concentrated on my kids’ costume needs instead. I’m impressed with any parent who manages to dress both themselves and their children for trick-or-treating, parades and the like … and I’m triply impressed with California mom Kristi Ouimet: She’s put together not just a cool costume, but a costume with a cause: raising awareness for organ donation.
Ouimet and her son Matthew, 3, who received a liver and kidney transplant last year, together created a giant replica of Ouimet’s driver’s license, complete with a hole for her head. Beyond its large size, the mock license bears another striking difference from the real thing: it features the logo and website of Donate Life America, a non-profit group that promotes organ donor registries.
Like Ouimet’s real license, the costume has a pink circle indicating that Ouimet herself is registered as an organ donor.
“This costume is just one more way I am trying to get the message out there to people and educate them and sign them up to be organ donors,” she said in an email. “Everyone has a chance to be a hero.”
Her son Matthew’s hero was a young man named Brandon. An Army veteran and college student, Brandon was just 22 when he was injured in a car accident. He died days later. A registered organ donor, Brandon’s organs were transplanted into five people, including Matthew, who has been battling a devastating condition known as Primary Hyperoxaluria Type 1 for much of his young life.
Matthew doesn’t hesitate to share his transplant story in his charming, three-year-old way.
He “is very proud of his scars and shows them off to people,” Ouimet gushed. “I love how confident and strong he is.”
Though Matthew’s health has been stable since March, he is fed largely through a tube in his stomach, which Ouimet said will remain in place for several more years. His bones are prone to fracture after years of dialysis made them fragile — he broke his arms three times in the span of three months.
Happily, it won’t always be this way.
“We are getting stronger,” Ouimet said.
Matthew, she said, is well aware of Brandon’s lifesaving gift.
“He talks about Brandon every day and to Brandon every day,” Ouimet said. “He knows that his donor saved him and is our hero and very much a part of who Matthew is and a part of our lives. It’s amazing how it just makes complete sense to a three-year-old. If only adults could understand it like he does more people would become donors and save lives.”
Ouimet, a tireless advocate for organ and blood donation, plans to wear her costume to a two-day blood drive she’s organized with the American Red Cross that starts on Halloween. On the night of the holiday, she’ll don her giant masterpiece again to take Matthew trick-or-treating in their Antioch, Calif. neighborhood.
Matthew will dress as either Captain America or a police officer while his father, a former Army reservist, will wear his uniform.
“It’s going to be a ‘hero theme’ costume time at our home this year,” Ouimet said.
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