12/07/2017

Why We Chose To Donate My Mum's Organs


Many of you will know by now that my Mum passed away very unexpectedly last year after suffering from a severe aneurysm, causing a huge bleed to her brain, however, what you may not know is that once certain tests had been run, which determined that my Mum was not going to recover after a day of battling for her life, we as a family then had to make the decision if we would like to donate my Mum's organs.

I wasn't expecting ever to have this conversation with anybody, so was shocked when the Specialist Nurses came into the room to have the conversation with us.  After suffering through all we had, this hadn't even crossed my mind.

My Mum had never signed up to the organ donor register, and had never had a conversation with us about organ donation, which meant the decision was down to us as a family, and the choice was made between my sister, my Gran and I.  Claire, our specialist nurse was incredible.  She was very thorough talking us through the procedure if we were to decide to go ahead with the donation, and reassured us that my Mum, although technically no longer with us, would be treated with the utmost respect during the operation as she would be doing such an amazing thing.

Claire then gave us all the time we needed to make a decision.  I didn't really need to think about it all that long.  My Mum was always the person who put everybody else before herself.  She wanted to help and save everybody.  In fact, she once talked a young woman out of committing suicide by jumping in front of a train, so she had literally saved a life before.  For me it was a no brainer.  She would absolutely want her last act to be saving the lives of others who maybe wouldn't have had a chance otherwise.

Also, from a more selfish perspective, the idea that she would live on in other people brought me comfort.  I needed to feel like losing her wasn't completely in vain.  I'm not entirely sure how to put these thoughts into words, but I will try my best.

Eight months down the line I still can't help but feel her death was unnecessary, and wrong.  Not in that I believe the doctors could have done more.  The doctors, paramedics and nurses who looked after my Mum from beginning to end were all beyond incredible, and I cannot fault the care she received.  There was literally nothing they could have done to save her.  The aneurysm happened so quickly and was so severe that she was probably severely brain damaged beyond repair before she hit the floor.

I just can't comprehend it still.  I can't wrap my head around her death.  She was 52.  That's no age at all to lose your life.  It wasn't like she was ill for a considerable length of time, allowing me to adjust to the idea of her not being here any more.  It was like somebody blew out a candle.  She was there, and then she wasn't, and my head still tells me that it's not meant to be this way.  That she was supposed to live to be an old lady who would still be convinced in her old age that she would be the one woman on this entire planet who could turn Freddie Mercury straight.  My head still struggles to comprehend that this will never be.

So the choice to donate her organs makes this a little easier for me, knowing that there are parts of her helping other people to carry on with their lives.

My Gran seemed to be on the same page as me, but it was tougher for my sister, and I completely understood why.  She didn't like the idea of parts of my Mum being removed, yet understood the good that could come of it.  She was really torn, so in the end spoke to a family member a little more detached from our current situation who could give a more outside perspective.

My only concern was her making a choice she felt comfortable with.  I was worried she would say yes to the donation because she thought it's what my Gran and I wanted, not because she actually wanted to go ahead with it.  My one and only rule with this decision was that we only went ahead with the organ donation is all three of us decided on it.  If one was a no then we didn't do it.

My sister eventually came to the decision that she wanted to go ahead with it too.  I was still worried that she'd made the decision because she thought it was what everybody else wanted to hear, and not because it's what she wanted, but then when we were sat with my Mum on our own for a bit, she said she was really glad she'd said yes, which put my anxious mind at ease.

This did mean that everything was prolonged a little longer.  My Mum was booked in for her operation the morning after, and her body essentially had to be kept alive to keep her organs alive, so she was still on life support at this point.  This part was absolutely gruelling.  We were still free to go and see her right up until the operation the morning after, which on the one hand, gave us a little more time to say our goodbyes, but on the other hand it made saying that final goodbye a million times harder.  It all proved to be worth it in the end though.

Once the decision was made we had to fill some forms in, then Claire asked if any of us would like my Mum's hand print and/or a lock of her hair to keep.  I personally didn't opt for this, but my sister asked if she could have both, and we sat with Claire as she took a lock of my Mum's hair and took her print, packaging them both away so nicely for my sister to cherish forever.  It was such a lovely thing to offer, and I just felt overwhelmed with the wonderful support provided to us by the specialist nurses.

My Mum went down to the operating theatre at about 11:00am the morning after, and this would be the last time we would get to see her, but was certainly not the last time we would be in contact with Claire.  She called me after the operation had finished to let me know how it went, and to advise me that both of her kidneys had been matched to two recipients.  I would find out in about six weeks time how they would get on with them.

I'm incredibly happy to report that both recipients are doing very well eight months on.  The details on the recipients I have are vague obviously for data protection reasons, but what I do know is that they are two young men, in their early 30's.  One was on the register for just over a month, and one for just under a year.  Both were suffering from kidney failure, and would have died had they not received my Mum's kidneys.

Being the age they are, they could have young families, or have recently been married, so not only do I see it in the way that my Mum changed the lives of these two men.  I also see it in the way that she changed the lives of their families too.  It could mean that a child gets more years with their Dad, a wife more years with their husband, parents more years with their son, the list goes on.

Making the decision to donate my Mum's organs was single handedly the hardest decision I have made and will ever make in my entire life, but knowing those two men are here because of her, and because we made that choice is a wonderful feeling.

What I wasn't aware of at the time when we made this choice was that we would be invited to an award ceremony later in the year, where we will collect an order of St John Award in honour of what my Mum did.  Every single family of an organ donor gets invited to one of these ceremonies to honour the loved one who donated their organs.  It's not mandatory to go, but you can sure as hell bet I'll be there to accept that award on behalf of my Mum.  She saved the lives of two people; the least I can do is be there in her honour.

As a result of all of this, you can obviously imagine that organ donation has become a subject very close to my heart.  I don't feel upset ever talking about the decision to donate my Mum's organs.  I feel nothing but pride.  Knowing that something good came out of all the bad, and knowing that a part of her lives on somewhere.

Until all of this I hadn't really thought about organ donation, but I signed up for a card almost instantly after all this.  I made Spencer and my family aware that under the circumstance anything may ever happen to me, that I want them to honour my decision to donate my organs (A very important conversation you must have with your family if you choose to register.  Even if you're registered and carry a card, your next of kin still have the final say.), and I carry my donor card on me at all times with pride.

I obviously hope I live to be a little old lady who's earned her right to moan about 'kids these days', but in the chance I don't, if I have a bunch of healthy organs that could save other people, then I absolutely want that to happen.  I would be incredibly upset if I had some perfectly good organs go to waste.

I guess the point of this post is to raise more awareness about organ donation, from a very personal point of view.  I will respect any persons decision, and will never judge anybody if they choose not to donate their organs.  Believe me, I know how hard that decision is!  I do hope from reading this you would at least consider signing up to the register if you aren't already though.  The way I see it is if my life depended on a new organ, and somebody sadly passed away who was my match, I would absolutely take that chance, so why would I not do the same for somebody else if the tables were turned?
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2 comments

  1. i signed up to donate my organs a few years ago now, and I've always been keen on the idea of it. I think that if I no longer need my organs, I may as well allow someone to possibly have a longer and healthier life as a result of it. An ex-partner of mine had a granddad on dialysis for his kidneys, and I experienced how gruelling it can be waiting and hoping for the possibility of a transplant, and it made me determined to donate my own organs.
    I'm sure your mum would be so happy with what you've decided to do - it sounds like she was an incredibly thoughtful and caring person, and I'm so sorry you lost her so soon

    Steph - www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Steph. Although I hope that it never gets to that stage for me because I definitely want to live to be a little old lady, under those circumstances it's so important to me that my organs be donated. I know my Mum isn't here to see what she's done, but knowing how it feels in her passing that her body has gone on to save two other people is just amazing, so I know that I would want to do the same.

      I also spoke to somebody recently who's family member received an organ donation, and was riddled with guilt that somebody had to die in order for them to live. I hate the thought of anybody feeling like this (Although I completely understand why they would feel like this!), so I hope writing this, and reading the situation from my point of view brings anybody who may have relied on an organ donation a little comfort knowing how happy it makes me feel to know that although my Mum's life had to come to an end, she can live on in somebody else, allowing them more time with their loved ones.

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