A few years ago, my family was really shaken up by the sudden loss of a loved one. Brain death would be listed as the official cause of death. It was so hard to see this person laying there looking absolutely perfect and pink and alive but to know that inside, they were gone. Their brain was done, finished, ended, erased. Everything that gave them their personality, made them smile, made them hope, made them human, was gone. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Braindead. We had pamphlets thrown at us explaining in harsh, clinical terms what had happened. It was a flurry of doctors and nurses. Nurses were only there for you to cry on. All these medical people but not one of them could change the fact that our loved one was gone. And straight away it seems, we were bombarded by questions. Our loved one had given permission for organ donation.

We were onboard with the donation and respecting wishes but literally felt that the co-ordinators and the doctor, to an extent, had done this all and seen this all before and we just became pawns.

We went to the hospital and the doctor continued to use the ultrasound machine in front of us and comment on how the organs were really healthy and looked like they came from a 30 year. They had NO regard to the fact that the family was standing there while they were checking “the quality” of the “meat”.

As soon as the doctors had what they wanted, that was it. A letter from the organ donors co-ordinator saying that the organs had been dispersed and that was it.

Out of four people that my loved ones organs had saved (heart, lungs etc) only 1 person bothered to write a letter, one year on. We didn’t want the world, we weren’t seeking any kind of compensation BUT to get a letter and hear how your loved one has saved someone else’s life and made miracles for them…well that was the whole point!

Everyone goes on about donations but i don’t know how to feel. I know that we were treated like it was all just routine business but we were going through an unexpected loss and trying to understand what had happened. Instead of processing and dealing, we were BUGGED REPEATEDLY to give our consent for the donations and even had it mentioned how we would be disrespectful if we didn’t honour our passed one’s wishes. I wish that i had been able to say, hang on, give us a minute!

I just wanted to share this. I don’t regret doing what we did, i do regret the way we were treated for helping to give” life”.

Please!!!! if you are ever touched by this circumstance, please!!!! the least that you can do is to say THANK YOU! even if you don’t say another word!

My loved one died and now you have a chance at life. The least you can do is be grateful! Things could have been different if we had said no……

Don’t forget that you are literally accepting the gift of life! Unless you have been in this situation, you will never know what it feels like. Not the easiest situation to navigate but a simple thank you is all it takes. I know a lot of people who have heard our tale immediately say “oh i am not donating then” but that is not my goal! I want you to donate, i want you to live, i want you to be at peace with the decision. I want you to appreciate how lucky you are but let others know this! While i am grieving still for my loved one, you could say thank you for the gift. That is all. I will be happy that you got another chance at life! A piece of my loved one is out there in the world.

Not everyone will have the chance to give or get a gift like this and that makes it a truly precious thing!

My loved one loved humanity enough to donate a piece of themselves to give life.

Posted anonymously, 28th December 2015

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  • I work in the field, although I am not involved in the clinical side but I speak with donor families all the time and this is so different from any story I have heard. I am so sorry that it happened this way or you felt it did, in your time of extreme grief. Thank heaven you were able to put your misgivings aside to donate anyway.
    On the issue of people writing or not writing to families, I also speak with lots of recipients and one of my questions is, have you contacted the family? In some cases, not all, they say I have written a dozen letters and destroyed them as nothing can put into words the gratitude I feel. I feel so sorry and guilty that their loved one had to die before I could have my second chance at life. I sometimes say, just start the ball rolling with a thank you card. Often this triggers them writing, particularly when I tell them that it can mean so much to a donor family. Not all families want to hear from the recipients, by the way.
    Did you know that you can write to your recipients through DonateLife? It might be the thing that starts the process and give you a sense of closure.
    Sue, Communications, DonateLife WA


  • This is not the first time I have heard of a family feeling ‘rushed’ or under pressure to ‘hand over their loved one’ who technically is still alive (to some degree) at this point. I understand that there is a sense of urgency in these situations, to get the organs as soon as possible to ensure they are at their optimal best for the often long-term waiting recipient, but yes, a bit of compassion and understanding from the medical staff involved would go a long way, and possibly encourage MORE organ donors for the future, rather than turn them off the idea. Although you are disappointed with your experience, try to find the comfort in knowing that you honoured your loved ones wishes regardless.


  • I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful gift but uncomfortable process. While it may be clinical for them, it is a huge loss and very sad time For you so the staff should be sensitive. Thank you for sharing your story


  • It is an absolutely wonderful gift that your loved one gave these people. It certainly would have been nice to have had some acknowledgement of this.


  • I would have thought you would be treated with more sensitivity by medical staff. The donation of organs is such a great gift. I know someone who was waiting for a kidney and while he really wanted a new kidney he was saddened by the fact that most likely someone would have to die for him to get one. When he got the call to say they had one for him, he was so excited yet a there was a piece of him that felt bad that it was a result of someones death. I know for a fact that he was so grateful for his kidney and that he contacted the family to thank them. I’d like to think that most people out there would appreciate this gift and express their gratitude to the families that are giving this gift.


  • Thank you for this – I am sorry you were treated this way. I have a low opinion of many medical people for exactly this reason.


  • Thanks for sharing your story. I had never thought about how much stress is put on the family. Really sad it’s this way. :-(
    Is it thus possible to know the name of the donor?


  • Organ donation is a highly emotive topic as family are in grief and the medical profession need to work quickly too. The best way for people to learn and maybe change their feedback to donor families is through feedback. Maybe write to them and let them know of your experience. It can be complicated as people may want their privacy too. Hopefully the generous act of your loved one will give you some comfort and their generosity to other people.


  • Its the people of this world who donate their organs that keep others alive, tragically as you said its done in a bit of a rush, without thought of the family that has lost a loved one. My cousin was lucky enough around two years ago close to christmas to receive the gift of a heart. Not a day goes by where he isnt greatful to have this gift. So was his new wife they were married only a few months when they got the call to go in immediently for a life changing operation with no guarantees of outcome.. (he has let the other family now how greatful he is ) or even if he would survive.. Thankfully so far he has done well. Due to this a lot of my family have signed up, and have even asked me to make sure whatever happens that that was their wish and to support the family through that time… So sorry for your loss.


  • Wow would have never had thought of it like that, I know a person that has had organs gifted to her and I know how much she honors that family that gave them to her. She never stops telling people that dues to someones amazing gift she is alive.


  • Oh, I really feel for you! My Dad has experienced this first hand too, and he has advised us NOT to become signed up organ donors due to the pressure placed on the remaining family members, as the organs need to be “as fresh as possible” and removed, transported and received “promptly”. People really do need time to process the sudden loss of loved one without this extra pressure. The trauma/effects of the process continues to provide extra pain. I am not anti organ donation by any means, far from it – BUT the process is a very traumatic hot bed of pressure for relatives/loved ones and this is something people need to know. Thanks you so very much for sharing.


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