Yesterday I received my new driver’s license with my new home address. This plastic card symbolized more than a legal passcard to drive in Ontario but also the new and exciting responsibility of owning a home with my family. While holding the familiar card in my hands, I glanced at our ongoing renovations and broke a smile at my partner, acknowledging that we have come a long way since our dated kitchen, old window and roof. To my surprise, in addition to celebrating my our new home, receiving my Ontario driver’s license also speared a slew of feelings and questions when I saw the organ donor application form.
I had never registered before and always set it the registration papers aside to be recycled. I never questioned becoming a donor and to be honest there was always this sense of discomfort about my organ being “harvested” after death. A little extreme, but a perceived sense of ‘loss’ surfaced when I thought about donating my organs (even though I would technically be passed on when the organs would be donated).
I’ve read a couple of stories related to the importance of donating organs such as 65_RedRoses, a documentary about a girl (Eva Markvoort) living with cystic fibrosis and her story of waiting for lunch transplant and similarly, Helen Campbell’s a 21 year old Ottawa organ donation advocate and double lung transplant recipient. While organ donation goes beyond lungs, these stories got me thinking about becoming an organ donor.
As I logged into the Ontario online organ donation registry an abundance of feelings surfaced. My heart started beating faster, my hands became colder and all I could think about was the “loss” of my organs and death. Because, how can you not think about death when registering as an organ donor, right?
Overriding my thoughts of death I started inputting the necessary information to register myself as an organ donor. Instead of thinking of my death, I kept running the following sentence in my mind
1 organ donor can save 8 lives.
EIGHT lives… That’s pretty amazing.
In addition to repeating the sentence, I also had to deal with my thoughts of “organ harvesting”. In order to do so, I started thinking about a teaching from one of my colleagues. I work at an Aboriginal Health Access Centre which provides a blend of holistic and western medicine to First Nation community members. Our organization respects and honors medicine wheel teachings which guide our approach to health. The medicine wheel teaches us that health and well-being isn’t merely a physical state of illness or lack-of but, a woven connection with the physical, emotional, mental and spirit. With these teachings, I started to understand that when I am gone, my spirit will no longer need my body (and organs) to move, play, and dance. After life, I won’t need a physical vehicle for my spirit. And this is where I shifted my focus and remembered that my values and spirit are largely founded on the principles of helping others (hence why I became a dietitian) and therefore, becoming a registered organ donor would allow my spirit to continue helping people (like Eva and Helene) and perhaps even a family member or friend after my physical self is no longer needed. Becoming a registered organ donor isn’t about losing my organ but honoring my values.
My heart rate is back to normal and my hands are finally warming up. At 9:45am, I became an official registered organ donor.
Yours in health and well-being
Julie Rochefort, registered organ donor