My family do everything via group text. We decide on dates for things, venues, gifts (or decisions on no gifts!) – we have group conversations about ideas and decisions that affect our family, so when I found out that DonateLife Week was coming up (2-9th August) I thought, why should the topic of organ donation be any different?
I shot out the group text this week to find out if my family members (mum, dad, brother, sister) wanted their organs donated in the event of an accident and I’ve been fascinated by this process and ultimate result.
I always thought this dark and serious subject needed to be handled with sensitivity and grace but alas – maybe the conversation just needs to happen now, however we can have it today.
Who knew the organ donation conversation could be as simple as a text? Seriously. I’m not saying text for everyone, but here’s what I learned in the process of finding out what my family want for their organs;
• Mum, Dad and sister all knew what they wanted immediately. Texts rolled in quickly and in detail – I suppose most individuals have it in their mind what they feel for themselves on this topic (I know I do, but until group-organ-text, my family didn’t know what I wanted).
• I learned that my text sparked a conversation with my brother and his partner, as it’s a topic they’d circled around but not landed on a final decision. Interestingly he’d long-battled with a knowingly irrational fear of needing to be ‘in one piece’ for any teeny-tiny percentage possibility of that being a requirement of the afterlife. They mentioned they were grateful to have finalised the plan. He’s giving everything.
• As they’re “supportive of the blog” they agreed I could publish their responses, and I’m happy to announce the Longano clan are a donating family! My mum is happy to donate everything but doesn’t think her eyes will be much use, my sister said (quote “Yeah you can donate all of me, my liver probably wouldn’t be any use though”), my dad wanted us to donate only for transplant reasons, not for research (I hadn’t even thought of that) and my brother would “donate all things”. Donation runs in the family as I confirmed I’m keen to donate everything except my eyes).
• Everyone respected the process and no one questioned anyone else’s wishes. They were simply received and respected.
• I’m not suggesting text is the way to go for everyone, but there was a serious advantage to how matter-of-fact this process was on text (or email). Any emotion or judgement was out, and responses of wishes simply rolled in – when they were ready of course.
• Now that my family and I have since caught up to speak about the sharing experience, I’ve learned that everyone has a nice feeling about having undertaken this. Almost like one of those annoying things that lingers on the ‘to do list’ has been ticked and we can all move on with peace knowing that we have each other’s wishes noted.
This process certainly got me thinking… I wonder if Facebook could add a section to your profile that had your donation wishes on it (for those who can’t be bothered with the organ donation registration) – something to help family know what you wanted if they never got the chance to ask.
It might also spark conversation as this ‘news’ is updated and seen by others. My understanding is that it’s ultimately the family makes the decision (unless you specifically state in your will that your decision for your organs should override that of your family) – so really, it’s all about having the conversation, however it suits your family best.
We’re a quirky bunch so it seems a simple text worked for us… and perhaps there’s something to be taken from this. It doesn’t need to be a long, serious, sit-down-and-cry-together kidney-liver moment… but instead it can be matter of fact. As simply as you might ask, “what are you thinking of doing for your birthday this year”, you can just as easily say “what do you want done with your organs should you have an unexpected accident”.
If you’re interested, give it a try… #havethechat. Either in person or shoot out a family text or email so that everyone is on the same page. Share your stories if you’re willing, it would be great for DonateLife Week to kick off with a few success stories.
Author Note: The All or Nothing Blog is working with The Organ and Tissue Authority for the national awareness drive, DonateLife Week, coming up on 2 – 9 August.
By Julie Anne Longano