Nurse Life

Organ Procurement – A Nurses Perspective.

I was there.

I was there the night you came into our operating theatre, the night when nobody knew your name.

I was there when we put a drain into your brain to try to stop it from swelling.

I was there that night when I went home and hugged my partner extra tight because for the moment that you were ‘unknown’ I was afraid that you were her.

I was there when you were so sick that your brain started to swell so we had to take out part of your skull.

I was there for every operation that followed. When we repaired your bleeding spleen, when we fixed you fractured femur, when your brain kept bleeding.

I was there every day, for hours as we tried to save your life. I ran, I sweat, I cried.

I was there when they decided that you’d had enough.

I was there when your family decided that you would give the ultimate gift and donate your organs.

I was there when your body couldn’t fight anymore.

I was there for your final operation.

I was there for your final act. For the most generous thing that you would do in your life.

I was there when they turned the anesthetic machines off because it couldn’t sense your heart beat anymore. It couldn’t sense your heart beat because it was in my hands.

I was there when your heart stopped beating. I held it in my hands as it beat its final beat.

I was there when we took your liver, your kidneys, your lungs, your pancreas, when we stripped you bare of everything that you had to give.

I was there when we found out that one of your organs was going to save the life of a dying six-year-old girl. I hope this brings some comfort to your family. Thank you.

I was there to make sure that you were presentable for your family who wanted to see you one last time

I was there to remove the breathing tube after all of the doctors had left. I wiped your mouth and removed the tape from your eyes.

I was there to bathe you and clothe you after your surgery, the nurse who made sure that you were treated with the respect that you deserve.

I was there for you.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for your family. I couldn’t look after them; I had used everything I had looking after you.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there to comfort them as they grieved over your hollow body. I had two junior nurses in my care that needed me, to debrief, to help them understand what had just happened.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there to comfort your partner. I didn’t even have time to comfort myself.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there to take you to the morgue. I just couldn’t face you again but I know I left you in the care of a fantastic nurse. I know you were well looked after.

I was there, thinking about them, about you, thinking about the lives that we had just saved and the life that had just ended. Did you have a full life? Were you happy?

I was there in the tea room with my team as we sat and shed a quiet tear, contemplating our own mortality, awed by the selflessness of yourself and your family.

I was there and I still am. I am haunted by every step of your journey, by the image of you lying there open and exposed for the world to see, of the image of your empty body, naked and vulnerable.

I am here, remembering you. The gift that you have given to so many people, the lives that you have saved and I thank you. The recipients will never know you or of you but I feel like I do.

I have held your heart in my hands.

I was there.

If you want to register as an organ donor please click here and talk to your family about what you want should the unthinkable happen.


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About Lacey-Jade Christie

Being in your twenties isn't all it's cracked up to be. Take a look into the life of Lacey-Jade, a twenty-something woman in Melbourne who is struggling to balance a career, study, love, plan a wedding, save for a house deposit and navigate the road to the suburbs and the children that will follow. Join her on her road of self discovery as she battles mental illness, workplace and family pressure while trying to decide if and when children should come into the picture and how.
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44 thoughts on “Organ Procurement – A Nurses Perspective.

  1. Lacey that made me cry and really appreciate what you and other nurses have to go through every day. I think it’s a good idea for you to start writing again it’s one way to release some of what can get bottled. I’m very proud of the person you have become. ❤❤

  2. That was a beautiful description accurate and heartfelt. Thank you for that. I’ve been in the same situation a number of times and when after my first one I was so impressed by the surgeon when before he left he put his hand on the donor and just said thanks mate. I’ve never forgotten that genuine gesture.
    I’m retired now but those cases never leave you, I treasure the memories.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply! I have a surgeon who always thanks his donors as well. I think it’s lovely and proves that enormity of the act of organ donation isn’t lost on them.

  3. Thankyou Lacey for letting me & others in on your experience. I’m a recipient of a heart in November 2013. I often think of my donor & what life she had lived. I was 42 & she was around my age when I received my gift. I have written twice with no response so I’m assuming she was loved so much that family couldn’t bring themselves to respond-so I’ll leave them in peace now. It was insightful for me to know of your feelings & emotions at that time. All the best

  4. Brought tears to my eyes very beautiful and moving, my heart goes out to you and the compassionate work you do.❤️️

  5. I’m an organ transplant recipient and had a kidney transplant in March of 2009 and pancreas in August 2011. Although I think of my donors every day, I’ve never really thought about the nurses perspective in regards to organ transplantation (other than how awesome each and everyone of you are!), and how it may affect you. Your words brought me to tears. Never forget how much your work is appreciated.

  6. OR nurse here. It’s a violent and unsettling feeling when you see the harvest happen and hear the monitors stop.

    I take a moment to pray for them clean them up and provide postmortem care. Then I try to think of the dozens of people helped by one person’s decision.

    This includes myself. I’m the recipient of cancellous bone graft in my knee that I wouldn’t be walking without. Thank you donors!

  7. That is so beautiful, heartfelt, and honest and shows how many people are touched by being involved in one persons extreme trauma.

    Thank you

  8. Beautiful….just beautiful. I was an ICU nurse for many years and cared for many organ donors. The first time I went to the OR with a donor I was a wreck…i had cared for this young mother for days and her final OR was quite disturbing. Fast forward 10 years and now I am an Organ Recovery Coordinator. I have never forgotten how difficult it was for me as the bedside nurse and now take great care to ensure the staff’s emotional needs are considered during the donation process.

  9. Wow! My son has been waiting for a liver for over two years. I know to expect very different emotions when thinking of the donor and family but your words are… Touching. I can’t imagine. Thank you for all you do.

  10. Thank you for sharing your side of the story Lacey.
    I received my new heart just before Christmas 2016, I think of my donor family quite a lot.
    I wrote to them, just a note to show my appreciation.

    Thank you, your work means a lot of different things to a lot of different people

  11. Thank you, Lacey, so moving. I am a heart recipient, almost 26 years ago. I have volunteered at our local OPO, at times meeting with the nurses after a donation. That way, they could see what the result of their heart rendering task, hopefully became. To see a recipient, thriving and healthy, was comforting to those nurses. I felt uplifted to give them a little sunshine from an unbearable job. Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. That was beautifully written! I am a ICU nurse, 27 years ago in February i was taking care of a young man that had been in a bad car accident , he had a head injury and was declared brain dead. His family chose to donate his organs. I went with him to surgery also for the removal of the organs. I was very impressed by the Doctors and there teams that came to retrieve the organ they would transplant to the patients waiting at different hospitals. The heart surgeon asked me to come with her and watch her transplant the heart. I declined due to the weather and said I would go with her next time. In July of the same year I experienced a major heart attack and needed a new heart as soon as possible because of the pulmonary edema and cardiogenic shock I was in. The heart surgeon was called and she came to my room and said go with me this time. 5 days later I received my new heart. I and my family have always been organ donors as well as blood donors. I am still working as a nurse and am still touched by the selflessness of people.

  13. I am in tears, Lacey. I got the heart of a 21 year old man (2 months older than our youngest child–a son) on 11/16/09. He was in a motorcycle accident and lived 10 days. I was 57 years old on that date and our oldest grandchild was 6 months old. We have met the parents of this young man. He was an only child and had just put on his drivers license to be a donor. I am so thankful for his donation, the medical team and know God ad control of all that happened.

  14. Lacey….

    Thanks for the work you do and your lovely description of the emotion involved. I am a heart recipient from May 2015. It was not possible to read your piece without tears.
    We recipients tend to be very emotional and often engage in celemourning. Thats the simultaneous celebration of our life combined with the mourning of our donor, the person we will never meet but is with us 24/7. I shared your article today to a couple heart transplant support groups. Its greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again

    1. Steve, thank you for sharing you story. I have never heard of celemourning but I have no doubt that it is a constant weight on your shoulders. Celebrate life and the gift oyu have been given. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I have received a Heart it has been an amazing gift. I wish I could thank my donor family they have no idea how they have truly changed my life for the better. I will not let my donor down for I know the sacrifice they and their family have made I just wish I could thank them. Thank you for being with these patients as they give their lives to help save another it is truly the most selfless gift. Thank you for looking after them and caring for them.

  16. I am in tears after reading your awesome summary. I received a heart from a 21 year old man on 11/16/09. He was only 2 months older than our son who is our youngest child. He has just renewed his drivers license and signed to be a donor. He died 10 days after he was on a motorcycle for the first time. We have met his wonderful parents. God was in charge and I have been blessed. My oldest grandchild was 6 months old when I had my transplant. The medical team was awesome. Thank you, Lacey!

  17. A previous donor saved my husband’s life, with every heat of that precious heart we are thankful….

  18. This article was very inspiring to me, to hear of a donor’s last few hours/days of life through the eyes of the hospital staff. On March 19, 2016 I received a kidney-pancreas transplant for a 25 year old young man. I was 53 at the time. I wondered how much of life did he actually get to experience. I thought about what I was doing at age 25 and how it seemed so unfair. I have had the price ledge of communicating with my donor’s family. It has made me all the more grateful for the sacrifice both he and his family made.

  19. Thanks both for what you do and your description of the emotion involved. It must be incredible difficult to disassemble someone you worked so hard to save. I recieved a heart in May 2016 and feel what we call celemourning regularly. Its the simultaneous celebration of joy at my new life combined with mourning the loss of my donor who I can never meet yet I live with 24/7. I posted links to your piece on a couple heart transplant support groups. It is greatly appreciated.

    1. Sorry for the double post 1st one looked like it didn’t go and I wanted to thank you. Please delete this one.

  20. Thank you for writing this. I received a kidney from such a selfless donor nearly 7 months ago. I have not written a letter yet to her family but her gift changed my life. And the nurses at Seattle Swedish hospital were angels to me. I need to express to my donor’s family how I feel about their daughter/sisters/mother’s gift.

  21. Thank you. As a donor family, I find great comfort in this. As a heart transplant recipient, I am glad you had respect for my donor. Because of your dedication, the world is a better place. God bless you.

  22. from a donors mum , thankyou this comforts me, my son saved lives when his life couldn’t be saved and the nurses cried x you do a hard courageous job .bless you xx

  23. Thank you for the perception from the other side of the operating theatre. Thank you for taking such care and respect to the wonderful human that said yes to being a donor. Thank you for your strength to do the exceptional job that you do. As a recipient of a liver I thank the beautiful soul and his family that gave me another chance and I thank the angels that looked after me in hospital.

  24. Hi Lacey,

    From a donor Dad to all nurses like Lacey.

    I was there with you – I was there watching you – I thank you for caring for my daughter – I thank you for being with her on her journey.

    My daughter would also wish to thank you for being there for holding her hand for making sure she was loved to the end. With-out nurses like you families like us would never be able to go on a donation journey to save a life. Thank you.

    PS – At the time of Zaidee’s final operation, a nurse asked, what can she do – I said, “Please hold her hand during her final operation as I am not allowed in there”, and she did.

    Below is my poem that I wrote soon after Zaidee’s donated back in 2004.

    Zaidee’s Poem:

    When Zaidee was taken in for her final operation to be an organ and tissue donor,
    She did not need her bright blue eyes to see,
    Her lungs to breath,
    Her little heart to pump blood around her tiny body.
    Nor did she need her kidneys or liver again.
    You see she had died.
    All Zaidee needed to take to heaven was the love from her Mum, Dad and brother Jaz.
    But other little children just down the hall in the same hospital did need her heart, her liver just to live life again,
    These kids are now home with their mums and dads, brothers, sisters and friends again,
    Two little kids got to see properly again, to see the faces of their Mum and Dad when they each received one of Zaidee’s cornea’s.
    A newborn and an infant and another got a second chance for life from parts of Zaidee’s heart,
    A Mum got two new kidneys and an 8 years old girl with her new liver finally lives outside her bubble.
    What Zaidee gave in death was life to other children and a mother because we as a family discussed this before a death in our family years before just in case;
    Our little girl Zaidee gave the greatest gift of all, her organs and tissues, she is now our angel in heaven who we are so very proud of for what she achieved in her short 7 years and 22 days of life that many of us will never do and that is to give life to others;
    Zaidee’s spirit and her memory will live on and on.

    Written by her Dad 2005
    Please “Inspire Discussion”

  25. Thanks for sharing your story. My beautiful Mum passed away suddenly in 2010 from a brain aneurysm. I often think about what that final operation would have been like for my darling Mum and you have helped me to understand what it must be like not just from a medical perspective but with all your emotions attached. Thank you for all you do x

  26. My daughter would have been 37 on July 19. We lost her at 16. As I try to prepare for a day filled with a mixture of grief for me and our family to a day of remembering the good times, to a day being thankful for 16 years, Heaven and God’s promised reunion, I am so thankful for YOU and others like you. I am privileged to volunteer to spread the word that organ, eye and tissue donation WORKS! Thank you for honoring my daughter and others like her who have given the gift of life.

  27. Hi

    Wow!! I am a blubbering mess. I am a donor mum. My beautiful son lost his fight 2 years ago.
    As I read your beautiful words I am picturing my son.
    Thank you so much for giving me some comfort…knowing the absolutely amazing care he continued to receive on his final quest by nurses like yourself touches my heart.
    God bless you and others like you.

  28. wow,im in tears.Ive had three liver transplants in perth and I wake every day amazed that im here.You guys are angels,the surgeons and hepatologists all work very hard but its you the nurses that got me through it all.Its been eleven years since my first one.Thankyou so much for your love and much love to you

  29. Well stated! Thank you for what you do. Please, please take care of yourself too.
    Signed a used up 25 year veteran that didn’t take to good of care of herself.

  30. Lacey, I’ve never really thought of this from your perspective. I received the gift of life 13 years ago, when I got a new liver. Im truly blessed to know my donor and his family. Such a bitter-sweet story I could tell… but this is about you, and other transplant nurses like you. Thank you for your compassion, for the respect you show each donor, for the way you treat them with the dignity they deserve. I’m in tears after reading your story… I felt like I hurried through those halls with you, like I was in the room with you and this gracious donor. I thank Gid daily for my donor, his family and my medical staff. One of my nurses is s dear friend to this day. My heart aches for you and the difficult path you tread each and every day. Thank you, Karen

  31. I was that OR nurse in 1974. Everyone should know of the respect, gratitude and sadness felt in the OR.
    In 2005, i was the donor’s mother. Knowing of the care he would receive, and the gifts he would give was sustaining for us all.
    From anonymous correspondence we were ecstatic to hear of “perfect corneas”, according to the transplant eye surgeon (irritatingly perfect, as he’d find a hair in anything) and more. A child who could now see out the window when being driven, could finally see letters on a page, and from a woman who could do cross stitch and sewing again. So many joyful words leaping from the pages. Please write to your donor family if you feel able. We celebrate with you.

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