Family Inspiration

familyMy story, although heartbreaking and sad was bittersweet. I lost a loving sister, who in death gave new life to four people who were at the end-stages of their lives. I lived this experience as a donor family member. Every day I think of the recipients and wonder how they are doing.

On a beautiful September morning, another ordinary day was to begin, or so I thought, for me as well as for my sister Pauline. Pauline and her husband had planned to have dinner with a dear childhood friend and her family to welcome a new grandchild in their family, and the next day they were to travel out of town to visit with relatives. In the afternoon while I was busy with shopping , I was unaware of the tragic event that was beginning to unfold . My sister was in the final hours of her life. Around 3 pm Pauline got a headache, and by 3:30 she mentioned to her husband that it was the worst headache of her life and by 5:30 she was gone. She suffered what the doctors called an intracerebellar hemorrhage.

My daughter and I arrived at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre shortly before 10 P.M.. En route there, we knew it was very grim, but we kept telling ourselves that maybe there was some hope, We did not know that she was already on life support in order to preserve her organs. A nurse met us at the ICU and explained that she was neurologically dead. He husband joined us and it was then that he told us that Pauline would be donating her organs. We were all in agreement that is was a wonderful thing to do. She was such a giving person, that would be exactly what she would have wanted. We visited with Pauline while waiting for my other sister to arrive from Northern Ontario. Meanwhile, a wonderful young nurse with the Trillium Gift of Life Network arrived at 3 A.M. to take the required blood tests that had to be sent to Toronto. My sister arrived at 4 A.M. , we left the hospital at 6 A.M., tried to get an hour of sleep and prepare for the long day ahead.. That morning we met with the Trilliu m Co-Coordinator. Every tests and procedures were explained in length with care, respect and compassion. We were given time to fully understand everything without being rushed. In between we visited with Pauline, and by then there were 8 family members encircling her bed, talking to her and praying. Everyone involved gave Pauline wonderful care and were very considerate, caring and supportive to all of us. We went home again for a couple of hours while waiting for the Transplant teams to arrive and perform the surgery to retrieve the organs. We all got back to the hospital at 8 P.M. and again spent some more time with Pauline, and praying, and after many goodbyes the surgical teams were ready; it was time to disconnect the life support for the second time. It was near 10 P.M. The surgery was to last at least until 3 A.M. .. 28 or so hours after she died.

As Pauline was being wheeled to the operating room, my dear younger sister gently started to clap and we all joined in applauding Pauline as she was on her way to parting with her organs to help others. We then joined hands and followed her and the medical teams to the elevator doors. We all went to the Chapel for a while, then went home in the early hours of the morning.

Amidst the heartbreak and tears, knowing that part of her would live on by giving life to others sustained and gave us strength , some peace and solace. I could not help but think of those other families and how they must have felt when they received that special phone call.

In the afternoon we received a call from the Organ Co-Coordinator with the news that 2 surgeries had been successfully completed and two were in progress and going well. We all cried and smiled and thanked God .

Our beloved Pauline, our hero, gave the ultimate gift by donating her organs. It gave new life to four people that were at the end-stages of their lives. A female received her liver, two males each received a kidney and a young adult female received her lungs. Her eyes will, or probably by now, have given sight to others and her heart valves went to Sick Kids Hospital.

God Bless Pauline, the Recipients, the wonderful Trillium Gift of Life Network, the Doctors, Nurses and everyone involved in this sad and miraculous process.

I will end my story by saying that this was the most touching and powerful experience of my life, I cannot express how important it is to make your wishes known to your family and to sign your donor card should you decide to become a potential organ donor. Why not give the Gift of Life to someone.


Pauline's sister.