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 http://www.donatelife.gov.au/understanding-donation-process
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. http://www.donatelife.gov.au/decide