Het verhaal achter het verhaal

Een tijd geleden schreef ik een verhaal met de titel ‘Don’t take your heart to heaven‘ (2 augustus). De inspiratie daarvoor kwam van een muzikant (Doug Morter) die ik sprak bij muziekcafé Cambrinus. De engelse vertaling (Dank Mees!) is via Doug terechtgekomen bij de man die destijds de gelijknamige song schreef, Jim Gordon. Hij bedacht de prachtige volzin ‘Don’t take your heart to heaven. God knows we need it here’. Nog steeds vind ik die geniaal.

Mijn verhaal was er op gebaseerd. Op die zin en op wat ik destijds hoorde van Doug. Doug putte weer uit zijn herinnering. Herinneringen aan wat Jim hem waarschijnlijk ooit verteld had en voor een deel putte hij ook uit wat hij zelf van de gebeurtenissen had onthouden. Jim en Doug zijn goede vrienden. Nog steeds. Wanneer je een verhaal via, via terugverteld, dan weet iedereen wat er mee kan gebeuren. Details worden anders, tijdlijnen vervagen enzovoorts. Daarom ben ik heel blij dat Jim me heeft willen bijpraten. Hieronder het verhaal, maar dan verteld vanuit de bron. Nog steeds ben ik onder de indruk van de boodschap die nog torenhoog overeind staat: Don’t take your heart to heaven. God knows we need it here.

Hieronder Jim’s verhaal

The Story behind the song

This part of my story starts on January 4th, 1988. At the time I was living in a small town on the east coast of Norway called Larvik, the home town of explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Originally from Ireland I had moved to Norway in 1982 after working there off and on as a musician for several years. My wife, Marianne, (now divorced) was from Larvik and we had two children, Naomi (3) and David (10 months). At about three in the morning we were awakened by the sound of a fire in the house that, by the time we realized what was happening, was completely ablaze. Unable to reach Naomi’s room because of heat and smoke, I jumped, naked as I was, from the second floor balcony. In the moment I had thought I would die. Marianne dropped baby David down to me. I caught him in spite of having lost my glasses, broken my arm and that it was minus 5 degrees and the ground was hard frozen.

A policeman came round the corner offering help and I gave him the baby. Marianne jumped but in falling broke her back. The fire service arrived and we were hustled to an ambulance. The firemen did not manage to rescue Naomi and she died. Marianne was in hospital for several months, undergoing operations etc., her back was saved. After her release we lived in a cottage in the woods whilst we rebuilt the house and she became pregnant.

Maria was born on Feb 12th 1989, just after we had moved back in to our home. She was diagnosed with a congenital heart problem after only a few weeks and we were advised by well meaning Doctors to give up and simply go home, as transplantation was the only way to save her. At the time transplantation was not available to children under 16 years of age in Norway. The only recourse was to go to England where such an operation was available. I contacted some friends in London who worked in the media and they put me in touch with the Daily Express whose medical correspondent told me whom to contact. At this point the Norwegian system was not being helpful and time was short.

We travelled over to England after a few weeks to the now defunct Harefield hospital outside London where the famous pioneering surgeon, Magdi Yacoub, was the senior surgeon. Maria was accepted onto the transplant list as a private patient because she was not covered by the British health system. I signed a contract for about 50,000 British pounds and we travelled back to Norway wondering where the money would come from- The Daily and Sunday Express had written articles about our situation but no financial help was to come from there.

In Norway however the National Newspaper, Dagbladet, took up the story, many articles were written on the theme and they raised almost 500, 000 Norwegian Kroner ( ca 50,000 pounds) over a period of weeks and that was enough to cover the expenses. Eventually the many details were sorted out over the summer and in the event there was an election in Norway (August) that resulted in the government agreeing to pay for the operation. The main problem after that was to find a donor, because for Maria to live, somewhere else in Europe a child had to die.

Weeks went by and nothing much happened so I contacted my friend who worked for the BBC at the time, as a journalist on the Breakfast news programme. I wanted to come to London and make an appeal on breakfast TV. She approached her bosses but they decided to send a film team and a reporter to Norway. A short report about Maria and the plight of some other patients was broadcast in November of that year, one week after the fall of the Berlin wall. The reason was that there was an international conference on the broad subject of transplants taking place in London. The story was very much in its time.

The reports were broadcast on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week in November, on the morning news. It also coincided with the annual Children In Need TV appeal and was seen by an estimated 23 million viewers on the Friday. On the Saturday evening we were contacted by the hospital and were flown by Norwegian air ambulance to London. A car in the London area had knocked down a child and his parents were offering his organs for transplantation.

Marias operation took place on the Sunday and on the Monday morning Maria was a TV-news sensation being, at 9 months, the third youngest in the world and the first ever Norwegian heart transplanted child. We lived outside London for about 4 months or so whilst in the follow up phase of her operation.  After she was eventually sent back to Norway I decided to try to give something back as a way of saying thanks for the help we had received. I took the slogan “ Don’t Take your Organs to Heaven, Heaven knows we need them here” and wrote the song “Don’t Take your heart To Heaven”

I recorded the song, sponsored by Dagbladet,  and offered it to the heart support organization in Norway as a possible way of raising awareness.  The process was very slow and they eventually did not use the song, not realizing the power of a story and music…They did, however, start a committee with other interest groups to explore the possibilities of raising donor awareness in Norway.

In 1999 Maria died suddenly at the age of 10. …

After this I recorded an album of songs with Doug Morter, a well-known English musician and good friend, along with some other good friends, also good musicians, from the UK. One of the songs was “Marias Song” that can be listened to on my web site at http://www.Jim-Gordon.com.

In 2004 I re-recorded “ Don’t Take your Heart to Heaven “ as part of a new album I recorded with some Norwegian musicians in Bergen where I had moved in 2001, having re-married. There was no intention to use it except as part of the cd. I realized that the committee I had previously been in contact with when I wrote the song had evolved into a national donor organization so I sent the two cds to the leader offering my services should an opportunity arise.

I was contacted a couple of years by Ulleval ( national-hospital in Oslo) donor section that was going to organize an event, partly to raise awareness and partly to say thanks to the families of donors. I went along and told my story and sang my two songs. The event was very successful and has taken place every year since then with the families of people who have been donors during each past year being invited. Up until recently it was unique in the world but now other countries are starting to have similar events.

I have been invited each year for the last 7 or 8 years and will be there again in October this year. I find that it is an event that helps to give these families closure and also the knowledge that they are not alone. Others taking part include personal from the hospital, representatives of the government and at least one person who has had a transplant.

This year I recorded a new project with Doug Morter and the same musicians as in 2000. We decided to record “Don’t take your heart to heaven again” as the version I now perform is so very different from the one I recorded in 2004. It was Doug´s suggestion that I offer the track to the donor organization to see if they can use it in some way to help raise donor awareness. Exactly what form that might take is yet to be decided and the cd is now at mastering stage in England as I write.

 

Finally: The post script is that David is now a thirty year old successful engineer, Samuel who was born during the events of the story is studying film at the American film institute in Los Angeles and i have three other fantastic girls with both my ex wife and my current wife here in Bergen. So life goes on.

Jim

 

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