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Gift of life

Renee Smith’s life was saved thanks to the donation of a kidney from an anonymous man.  Here she expresses her thanks to his family, and encourages more people to become organ donors.

Most of us have heard of and read about the NHS Organ Donor Register. We may have seen television programmes asking us to consider donating our organs after death, with moving documentation of lives transformed.

Well, it is easy to ignore these requests, or make it one of those things that go into the ‘to do’ list, but rarely get done.

Hopefully my story will be a true ‘call to action’.

Something wonderful happened to me when, thanks to the generosity and compassion of strangers, I was given my life back.

Last October, somewhere in the UK, an elderly man died. All I know about him is that he was 74.

Yet I, my partner, my children, my grandchildren and all my closest friends, will never forget him. We give thanks for him every day.

His gift to me of a desperately needed kidney has changed my life and, I am sure, the lives of those who also received his organs.

Prior to his death I felt as if I were camped on death’s doorstep in a fragile tent.

Three times a week I spent several uncomfortable hours on a dialysis machine. I had numerous crises, some life threatening.

At times I doubted that I would see the coming Christmas. I was eventually accepted onto the transplant list but I honestly did not believe that I would ever receive a new kidney.

Somewhere another family was coming to a brave decision.

Despite their grief, in order to honour the registered intention of their loved one, or because they believed that he would have wanted it, they agreed to his organs being harvested.

Because of that decision I now live a completely renewed life.

I feel better than I have done for years. I am able to do so much more and look forward with real hope and expectation to all sorts things which before my transplant I could not do.

Recycling at its finest

This is recycling at its finest. I wonder what better legacy we could ever leave than that of life for another.

I don’t know if my donor’s family realise that they and their loved one are remembered so frequently and with such admiration and gratitude.

I hope that their courage, and the decision which came out of it, is rewarded by a sense of peace and consolation.

They have to make their own journey through their sadness but I believe that the gift of life, which they gave to a person they knew not at all, casts small but brilliant patches of light on the dark road which they must travel.

Many more could register to donate their organs. Age is no impediment.

This is a memorial of real value; my hope is that anyone who is able to do so will recognise it as such. Like Shakespeare’s 'quality of mercy' it is twice blessed, in the giving and the receiving.

Despite being so grateful for my kidney and constantly aware of the thousands still waiting for transplants, I am not convinced that a law allowing the automatic harvesting of organs from anyone who has not 'opted out' is the right way forward.

Compassionately and generously gifting one’s organs after death should be exactly that - a gift, freely given, thereby granting donors and their families the lasting legacy of gratitude and remembrance which they truly deserve.

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