Monday, January 26, 2015

Organ Donation

A friend of mine lies in my embalming room today.  She was such a sweet soul.  Our small town will surely miss her cheery smile and encouraging words.  She is a young woman and her death was unexpected.  In this situation, one expects her family to have difficulties adjusting to their loss.

My friend was a caregiver for those who were unable to adequately care for themselves.  She loved her clients and was dedicated to them.  She was honest and sincere.  Knowing her brightened your life.  

My friend was a giving and selfless person and she carried this gift with her, even into her death.  She was an organ donor.  She intended to help others by leaving behind life sustaining opportunities for anyone who needed healthier organs than the ones with which they were born.  In fact, my friend and her sister, who is likewise a caregiver, both chose to be organ donors.

My friend died from heart issues, so her heart was not suitable for donation.  She had other core organs, however, that were sustainable and met the criteria for donation.

Once my friend died, her family was asked to sign their consent for her organ donation.  They were honored to do so, as they knew it had been her wish to participate in this life-saving program.   Unfortunately, my friend’s family did not completely understand what organ donation entailed.  I speculate that my friend did not completely understand either, as her sister who registered right along with her, was unclear and surprised at the events that followed the signing of consent.

Consent from the family gave custody and all medical rights over to the donation harvesting company.  My friend’s body now became a sustainable host for her organs.  Her family had no influence or rights over medical actions utilized to protect the health of her organs.  Although my friend had been pronounced dead, her body continued on life support until suitable organ recipients could be identified.  When one deeply analyzes the concept of organ donation, the extension of life support makes complete sense.  When one has suffered the loss of a beloved family member, the extension of life support through additional heart attacks, strokes, and increased body system failures, becomes unbearably agonizing.

Initially, medical staff informed my friend’s family that life support would continue for up to 34 hours.  These hours were excruciating on her family.  As they witnessed their loved one suffer, they were informed that those 34 hours might extend up to 72 hours and that in addition to core organs, skin tissue would also be harvested; they were devastated and demoralized.   They immediately requested that my friend’s body not be disfigured above her shoulders, to preserve a pleasing memory at her funeral.  They were informed that they had signed over all rights to their loved ones body and that medical personnel would decide what would or would not be harvested.

My friend’s organ donation was extensive.  Her core organs were harvested, her long bones were harvested, her joints were harvested, her eyes were harvested, her ribs were harvested, her pelvis was harvested, her skin tissue was harvested and the list goes on.  

The point is that organ donation is a wonderful gift to those suffering life-threatening illnesses.  It is selfless and noble.  One needs to understand what all it entails, however, before signing on their participation.  They also need to ensure that their family understands the full spectrum that controls organ donation.

My friend’s family knew that she wanted to donate her core organs, they were devastated when the donation extended to her entire body.  The unexpected and sudden loss of a loved one is complicated to overcome.  Add to this, the donation of body parts that disfigure your loved one and the loss of medical control over the extension of life support once she is pronounced dead, and you are looking at excruciating suffering for those who loved and cared for her.

Organ donation is selfless and noble, and is a gift to those suffering life-threatening illness, as well as to their families.  Thank God, for people like my friend, who out of love for humanity, donated her vessel of life, so that others might live without pain and suffering.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and professional speaker. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award.  I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences on their "Road to Recovery". It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.


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