Elder advocates’ Neil shares story of mother’s organ donation

August 16, 2013

I recently lost my mother, unexpectedly. While I am relieved to know that she died peacefully and apparently without pain or suffering, the sudden loss is devastating. I am a nurse. I deal with death often. I deal with illness, dementia, and almost every situation you might imagine as a professional. Now, the loss is mine. And my family’s. And my father’s, who was married to this beautiful person for 61 years.

Just before passed, I stood in the emergency room, my mother sustained by a ventilator until we could see her and say goodbye. The verdict from the physician was that any efforts to relieve the brain bleed (caused by a fall in her home) would be futile. I had heard those words before, but not in reference to my mother.

In the midst of the discussion about removing the ventilator (which was clearly documented in her Living Will), my father remembered that she wanted to be an organ donor. Unbelievable! How does my dear father remember that at this moment in the midst of the tears and agony of losing her? The answer–my parents have always given everything they had to others. So, in death, you give life. And that is what my mother did.

Her death was a much slower process because she donated her organs. As the ventilator stayed to perfuse viable organs for use by recipients who we don’t yet know, it took another 36 hours for Mother’s brain to completely die. But while we struggled through the week, three families had wonderful experiences!  Two people have new kidneys and someone has a new liver, thanks to my mother and to my daddy, who had to watch a slower death in order for the organs to be saved and given to others.

The gift of life. Unselfish as usual, both parents gave.

May God bless the recipients. May God help me serve better as a result of this personal experience.

Filed under: Grieving,Organ donation

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3 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Bari B. Gerbig  |  August 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Thank you for your touching story and thank you for all the gifts that your Mother gave her family and others.

  • 2. Rita Griffin  |  August 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm


    Your compassion for everyone around you has always been huge, so I can only imagine how much more so now. After hearing about your Mother and her life; your Father as well, I know where this gift of compassion and love for fellow man came to you from.

    May God continue to Bless you and your service.

  • 3. Donna Patterson  |  December 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Carolyn, I cannot imagine your mother not giving of herself in death the same way she did in life. She was one of the most loving, caring ladies I have had the pleasure of knowing. God truly gained a most precious angel when she walked through those pearly gates. Your story was so precious. I love you sister.

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