One of the things we, as members of the Communications team at LLF, always tell the public is, “talk to your family about organ, eye and tissue donation.” We stress having the conversation because we feel it is important for all family members to be made aware of each other’s wishes. This is because to be honest, if you are in the position to be a donor, and that’s the first time the conversation ever comes up in your family, you are not going to be in the position to voice your opinion on the matter and your family will have to make the decision on their own.
That said, it’s not always easy having the donation conversation with family members. I know this first-hand. My mother and I didn’t actually sit down and have the donation conversation until after I had already been a designated donor for five years. The conversation turned out well in the end, but did not go as I had expected. It went a little something like this:
Mom: I could never donate your organs.
Me: Well, you better because it’s what I want to happen.
Mom: WHAT?! NO!
Me: What do you mean “no?” It’s my decision and that’s what I want. It’s already on my license.
Mom: It is?!
Me: Yeah. Wait, you’re not an organ donor?
Mom: I just don’t want to be one.
Me: Well, I want my organs and tissues donated, and I want to be cremated.
Mom: WHAT?! You already have a cemetery plot!
Me: Pardon? Who said I wanted one of those? Give it to someone else from our family. I don’t want to be buried. And you better donate my organs if something happens to me and I’m able to be a donor.
Mom: I’m not going to just give away your cemetery plot! And I don’t want you to be an organ donor. I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to talk about you dying.
Me: Sell it then. And we obviously need to talk about this because you have no idea what I want. I want to be an organ donor, it’s important to me.
Mom: Ok fine, but do I have to donate your eyes?
Mom: How about if I donate everything except your eyes.
Me: Fine, whatever floats your boat, Mom.
I’d like to point out: had this conversation never taken place and I were to die before my mother, NONE of my after-death wishes would have been honored, simply because she didn’t know what they were. I’m really glad we had this conversation because even though she was initially against everything I said, I never doubted she would honor my donation wishes now that I had told her what I wanted, even if she didn’t agree.
This just proves how important it is to talk with your family about donation because then, if they are ever faced with that decision, they’ll know exactly what you wanted and they won’t feel pressured that they have to make that decision for you. It’s not always an easy conversation to have, but at least it gives your family a chance to hear from you what you want while you are able to express your wishes. The online registry has an option which makes it easy to e-mail your family and friends to let them know you’ve registered yourself as an organ donor. This is a great way to start the conversation if you’re unsure of how to go about bringing it up.
The end of my story:
Since our original conversation about donation, I often spoke to my mom about my job at LLF and how touching it is to be able to work with donor family members and recipients and seeing how donation has touched their lives in such profound ways, Then, last summer, my mother had to get her driver’s license renewed, and she proudly announced her plans to designate herself as an organ donor.