The Gift of Life


On the 23rd of February, it will be the 8th anniversary of the day our daughter Ali became an organ donor, the day we accepted there was nothing more that could be done, and allowed the hospital staff to wheel her warm but lifeless body away from us. We felt so strongly about the struggle we’d gone through to make that decision, because of our own ignorance of the process involved, that I wrote about it for the Australian Medical Journal a few months later.

The hidden trauma of organ donation    Joanne M van Os, Med J Aust 2009; 191 (11): 612-613


Ali was 16 when she died in Phuket, Thailand, with barely a day’s illness in her short life. Her heart saved the life of another teenager, a 15 year old Thai girl, and her other organs saved or improved the lives of six other people. Organ donation is not something we think about very often. Most of us think it’s a good idea, but too few of us take the next step and actually sign the forms or register on line as donors. The other important – hugely important – thing you must do, is let your family know what you want to happen. If you’re in the unfortunate position of being a potential organ donor, then your family may be too traumatized to be able to give permission unless they know your wishes beforehand.

Then, read the information, and understand the process. If we had done this ourselves, we wouldn’t have spent a whole night in anguish, trying to make the right decision. We knew it was what Ali would have wanted us to do, but there are facts about organ donation that can be confronting, especially when you have lost someone you love, and the hospital bedside is not the place to find out about them for the first time.

Read the information provided by the Donate Life organization, on their website at

There have been several articles in the Australian press lately about organ and tissue donation and about the lives saved and improved. This is wonderful to see, and hopefully will reopen the conversation our country needs to have, about making organ donation an “opt-out” decision, not an “opt-in” as it is now.

We have never regretted making the decision to donate Ali’s organs. Knowing that seven other people would have a chance at a healthy life themselves, made the death of our beautiful daughter so much less wasteful.

Register with DonateLife now, and talk to your family, so that the people who love you know what you want.



12 thoughts on “The Gift of Life

  1. We love you and thank you for putting up this info. My heart aches looking at the pictures of your beautiful daughter. I had just posted a photo of us standing together with Destiny from 4 years ago and should have remembered that of course you were in Thailand for Ali. We send you our love and our Prayers .

  2. Thank you Jo for writing and sharing Ali’s story and spreading the word about preparing for organ donation. Thinking of you all on Ali’s anniversary.

  3. Thank you for posting this information. I signed years ago. I often think of your beautiful Ali and know how your heart must have broken. Much love.

  4. Thank you, Jo, this was a beautiful story, and I hope it will make your heart smile a little to know that (through Ali’s godmother, my Facebook friend Lindel), Ali has touched one more life with a gentle little pang just by my reading this today. (And although my daughters, sister and I are all registered for organ and tissue donations, I have shared your story on my FB page to encourage others to think about it. )
    Thank you for taking the time to write and share your story and your message.
    Kindest regards

  5. Thank you for sharing this most important information which will help others. Your daughter is soooooo beautiful. Lots of love to you both for helping other.

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