Today I am delighted to have writer Susan Gandar join me as my first guest on Swirl and Thread for 2017.
Susan is the author of We’ve Come to Take You Home, published in March 2016 by Troubador Publishing and described as ‘an unusual and compelling story of love, loss and the importance of family.’
Susan has written a very poignant post on the importance of Organ Donation and her own personal experiences in this area.
I’ll hand you over to Susan now…..
LIVING INSIDE THE STORY
‘It was my own mother, not some fictional character out of a book or television series, lying, hooked up to machines, in the hospital’s intensive care unit …’
It was while I was working as Script Consultant on ‘Casualty’ that we decided to focus an episode on organ donation, specifically looking at it from the donor and the donor’s family point of view. Plus the experiences of the doctors and nurses trying to get a family to agree to donation. Sam Snape researched and wrote the script – ‘Living Memories’.
Less than six months later, I found myself sitting beside my mother, in the back of an ambulance, blue lights flashing, siren blaring, as it weaved its way through the traffic towards the nearest hospital. When the ambulance screamed to a halt, the back doors opened and I found myself staring into the faces of the A & E department’s crash team, what had been TV fiction became a living reality.
Two hours later, my mother was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. One hour later the diagnosis was confirmed. Tests confirmed brain death. My mother, or rather the shell of my mother, was being kept alive by machines.
I knew, because of having worked on that episode of ‘Casualty’, that my mother could become a donor. I was expecting one of the doctors or nurses to come into the family room, where I was sitting with my father, to ask that question. Have you ever considered, would you consider, your wife, your mother, as a donor? But the question was never asked.
Eventually I followed one of the doctors out of the room, into the corridor. The look of relief on his face when I said, please, do ask, you may well find the answer is yes, was indescribable.
So the question was asked and we talked, my father and I, sitting together in the intensive care unit’s family room. He was at first appalled. But then we began to talk about his wife, my mother, what she would have wanted, if she had been there sitting with us, and his attitude softened. She’d always been very practical, very down to earth, and she had always helped others. Her very sudden and completely unexpected death was enough of a tragedy without the opportunity of bringing help, even life, to others being wasted. We called the doctor back into the room. We had made our decision.
To have to be asked by a doctor, immediately after such a tragedy, to make such a decision is very, very difficult. For some people impossible. And I can completely understand why the medical and nursing profession find it so difficult. Perhaps, just sometimes, rather inflict more suffering, they even choose to avoid it. But that discussion, that opportunity we were given, through the death of my mother to bring hope to others, helped us, as a family, get through to the other side.
Because in that terrible time of darkness, when the chance of ever being happy ever again seemed so remote as to be impossible, it did provide just a flicker of light – of hope for some sort of future. And as the days, weeks and then the months went by, that flicker of light grew stronger and stronger.
So what to do? How can we stop hundreds, if not thousands, more people from needlessly dying due to lack of available organs? In the long term, the most effective way through would be the introduction of an opt-out organ donation system as already adopted by Wales and being considered in Scotland. Meanwhile we will have to continue to make do with an opt-in register. But the wishes of the individuals who signed up to that register, to donate their organs, must be honoured by their families and loved ones.
The place for such discussion, to donate or not to donate, mustn’t be restricted to inside the grim four walls of a hospital’s family room. If it is, it will only fail. It has to be out there, openly in society, on television, in magazines, papers, on the radio, on television, in fiction and non-fiction, and, most importantly, here on social media.
Eighteen months after my mother’s death, we received an invitation, as a family, to attend a service at Southwark Cathedral. All the people in the congregation were in some way connected to organ donation – whether as donors, the family of donors, organ recipients and their families, or medical and nursing staff working in the field. We were all there to celebrate – because in the giving, and in the receiving, life, rather than death, had won.
To sign the organ donor register go to Organ Donation
Thank you Susan.
A post like this is a very special one that I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to share with you all today.
Organ Donation is something we all need to think about very carefully, with full consideration given to the possibility of the lives that could be saved. It could be your father, mother, husband, brother, sister, child……
Book Blurb ~ We’ve Come to Take You Home
Samantha Foster and Jessica Brown are destined to meet. One lives in the twentieth century, the other in the twenty-first century
April 1916 and thousands of men have left home to fight in the war to end all wars. Jessica Brown’s father is about to be one of those men. A year later, he is still alive but Jess has to steal to keep her family from starving. And then a telegram arrives – her father has been killed in action.
Four generations later, Sam Foster’s father is admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. A nurse asks if she would like to take her father’s hand. Sam refuses. All she wants is to get out of this place, stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a place with no hope and no future, as quickly as possible.
As Sam’s father’s condition worsens, her dreams become more frequent – and more frightening. She realises that what she is experiencing is not a dream, but someone else’s living nightmare…
We’ve Come to Take You Home is an emotionally-charged story of a friendship forged 100 years apart.
Purchase Link : We’ve Come to Take You Home