Reader's View, organ donation: Honor memory of loved one by giving the gift of life

May 22, 2013 

I would love to share with readers the importance of becoming involved in the donor bank program, and the outcome of our family experience.

On Dec. 10, 2012, our 16-year-old daughter was in a tragic car accident. Seeing Shauna with the injuries she suffered broke our hearts. Not only was she in a coma for six days, but she spent several additional days on life support awaiting an organ transplant. She was finally laid to rest the day after Christmas.

The decision to participate in the donor program had been made by my husband and me in a response to saving the lives of others, and honoring our daughter's generous spirit. It was also a way for us to share our love for Shauna, keep the memory of her within our world, and practice the joy of giving during the holiday season. It was an opportunity as parents to teach our other daughter, Haley, about giving, resiliency, finding a deeper spiritual meaning in life, and finding ways to move forward in the face of tragedy. We were told that Shauna's organs were child-size and would have to be transplanted in either a child or very small adult.

Thank you to the Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank and Saint Alphonsus Hospital - we have recently learned that Shauna's pancreas went to an individual who also received one of her kidneys. Because my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer, it was important to me to give the pancreas. Her other kidney went to individuals who were grandparents, and this thrilled us. Shauna loved "grandpas and grandmas," and was always quick to tell us they knew everything. Her liver went to another person of grandparent age.

Shauna's heart has been transplanted into a 27-year-old recipient who is doing well and would someday like to be a mother. We are excited about the possibility of meeting the keeper of our daughter's heart.

Shauna had a gentle, beautiful and giving spirit, always putting others before herself. She had a happy life, and her smiling eyes told the story of love from within. Her heart was sacred to us because of her noticeable kindness by all who knew her.

We always knew Shauna was a special "gift." Our decision was initially based upon the person Shauna had become and what she would do for others, but it became more like a mission when we had realized our decision saved the lives of four individuals. We were sincerely excited for the recipients to receive a long-awaited phone call.

Organ donation is optional, but I would encourage everyone to consider giving. In the face of tragedy, our family was reminded by our donation that we someday could wind up on a donor list and in need. We were the family that these tragedies would never involve, and how this happened to us we will never understand. It seems hard to imagine that your loved one's fate could depend on a small sacrifice from others.

I could assure anyone that they would never want to be on the receiving end of life while a clock is ticking without hope or possibility. We were adamant that another family not feel the pain we had with our loss.

The gift of giving with organ donation is a noble cause and has been so meaningful to our family. To be able to share Shauna's most valuable virtue, we gave on her behalf, and that alone gave us peace during the holiday season.

Heidi Hill lives in Eagle.

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