Monday, February 20, 2012

~ donate life ~


Its donate life week.
Some time ago I promised another blogger that I'd write about organ donation.  
Its particularly pertinent to her as she's on the list for a double lung transplant.
I think its important for all of us.

When I was in fifth year medical school I spent some time at a small (ish) country hospital.  There was lots to learn - not least the nitty-gritty of being part of a small community and being kind of apart from it as well.

One of my most profound memories from that time is of a young man we treated there.  I didn't really meet him...he had tried to commit suicide and was in the ICU (or equivalent) being kept alive by machines.
I was part of the medical team speaking with his parents about organ donation.
They were in shock.  They were devastated.  At times they were barely coherent.  They were adamant that his organs should be donated.  Other family members vehemently disagreed with this.

I've never really mastered the whole detached professional thing.  I certainly hadn't as a 22 yo student.
I have very clear memories of sitting next to his mum crying with her as the debate went on.

He did go on to donate organs.
I was allowed to watch the harvesting (a huge privilege).
I cried then too.

I saw his mum a few weeks later.  Gaunt and hollow eyed.  She made a point of saying that the only good thing to have come out of the whole event was that other lives had been saved/changed.
This was despite the fact that her own mother was still upset by the fact that she felt she didn't get to say goodbye properly; that he was with strangers in an operating theatre when he died.

I've since been lucky enough to look after patients who have had successful transplants and seen their lives transformed.  
Hope manufactured from the depths of despair.

I was always a believer in organ donation.  I still am.
I carry my card.  I've registered.  I've discussed it with my loved ones.

Have you?



  1. yup :)
    although i need a new card.. the number and name have just about rubbed off!...

  2. What you've described here just reinforces my belief in being an organ donor... thanks for that. Here in Peru we don't get a card, per se. The info is on our ID card.

    1. Hey Iris - what are donor rates like in Peru? - they're not great here

  3. Yep, all signed up and chats had :-)
    Like Helen, my card is now practically name free. Thanks for the timely I might put a similar post up on my own blog to spread the word ... it being donate life week and all :-)

    1. the chats are important :-) I'll check your blog soon

  4. Wonderful story. You have seen both sides first hand. Yes, I've made those choices.

  5. Thank you for sharing that story with us. I very much believe in organ donation and I have told my husband that if there is no hope for me then there must be something done for someone else.

  6. I most certainly am Ally. I worked with kids with cystic fibrosis for ten years and seeing children wait on the waitlist would have cemented my decison - if I wasn't already a firm believer in organ donation. Thanks for this post- it's always good to raise awareness of this issue. - Melissa

  7. I feel a knot in my stomach Ally, giving up hope for your own children and taking the decision to donate their organs must be something I never want to have to face!Thanks for sharing that story of yours xx

    1. I never want to face it either Sandrine...but boy I'd be hoping that there were brave, generous people out there if I needed it for me or mine

  8. I am registered too Ally. I wish we had a system where you were considered a donor unless you opt out. I totally understand the complexity of being a health professional in a small community. I too walk that tightrope :) my blog helps me balance all of that out. Beautiful post xx

  9. Hi Ally,

    thankyou so much for your amazing post. It's such a powerful story to tell, and something that most of us will never experience.
    I keep my fingers crossed every day that a family will make that truly selfless decision to donate so that I have a second chance.

    Cam x

    1. Hi Cam,
      My fingers are crossed for you too

  10. Yes. I wish I could donate bone marrow, too, but I lived in the UK during the mad cow years and can't even donate blood. x Denny

  11. Good on you, I've had my donation forms all done since I learned to drive and have told my husband and kids that I really want to donate what I can... whatever's left. But not too son, hopefully.


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