Organ donation: A tribute to a hero

Note to reader: This blog was originally posted on the blog.  It is still one of the most popular blogs, I think, just due to the fact that it is such an important topic.  It was also written from my heart, which always helps.  Original post date was April 9, 2010.

I didn’t want to write this blog. I am sad, angry, tired, confused, and not in the mood to write. I wanted to ask someone to cover for me. But I have a story to tell, and it’s an important story.

This week, my brother and sister-in-law lost one of their best friends. Her name is Sarah, and she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest on Friday. Their grief is unknowable, unmanageable, and raw. I knew Sarah, having met her many times. I laughed with her, danced with her, rocked out to my brother’s band with her, and watched her be a best friend to my little brother.

Sarah has a family and group of friends that are in shock at her passing. Words do not express the feelings of grief.

But because of Sarah, on Wednesday, something miraculous happened for someone else. The parents of a 12-year-old boy were told that their child will be saved by Sarah’s kidney. The family of 14-year-old girl got the news that she would receive the other one. Her heart will be going to a 59-year-old woman; her pancreas will be going to a 45-year old woman, and her liver will be going to a 45-year old woman.

In all, Sarah’s organs and tissues will affect the lives of over 50 families.

In researching this blog, I found some interesting facts on the Mayo Clinic website.

  • More than 101,000 people are waiting today for transplant surgeries, according to the official U.S. government Web site for organ and tissue donation.
  • The waiting list for transplants grows by approximately 300 people each month.
  • Each day, approximately 77 people receive an organ transplant.
  • However, 19 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
  • One-third of consenting donors never realize their wish to donate because family members subsequently refuse permission — in many cases simply because they are unaware of their loved one’s preference.

Sarah’s family knew that she wanted to donate her organs. While the deep sadness and loss and grief will envelop those who love Sarah for a long time, knowing that she is helping others by giving of herself provides pockets of peace.

While many people find it difficult or uncomfortable to talk about death, I really hope reading Sarah’s story will give you an outlet to let your family know your feelings about organ donation. To those families who received the gift of our friend Sarah, you now have part of a strong, plucky, caring, passionate, loving person with you.  Thank you, Sarah. You will be missed by more people than you ever knew.

For more information about organ donation: