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24. #50YearsofTransplant: Kary Michaels

Kary Michaels shares the story of her father who was an organ donor at the age of 79, and at that time, was the oldest liver donor in BC. Kary also shares the importance of organ donation and transplantation and how it helped with her grieving process.
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Can you share a few details with us, on your dad's passing?

My dad passed away in a skiing accident in January 2014.  He experienced a brain hemorrhage as a result and though he was gone from us that day, he was kept on life support and declared legally deceased a few days later.  They had brought him down from Prince George to Vancouver (St. Paul's Hospital) to see if his organs were eligible to donate.  My father was just two and a half months shy of his 80th birthday but the doctors said he had a body (organs) of a 65 year old.  He became the oldest liver donor in BC.

Experiencing the trauma and grief of losing someone so dear to you can be overwhelming, to say the least. What motivated you and your family during your experience of loss, to decide to donate the organs of your father?

My mom and dad signed up to be donors when BC Transplant first started 50 years ago in BC and my dad insisted my sister and I become donors as soon as we received our driver's licenses.  He had a friend who received a heart transplant many years ago and since then it was always important to him that the whole family registered to be organ donors as well.  When he passed away and the doctors suggested he might be eligible, it wasn't even a question.  We knew it was what he would have wanted.  Knowing this, along with the kindness of the doctors and support staff from BCT, made the experience a much easier transition.

What has being involved with BC Transplant as a donor family advocate meant for you, and the legacy of your father?

I've volunteered for BCT for a few years now.  It's been incredibly helpful with my healing process.  My family and I have all felt that his gift to save a life was the silver lining in his sudden passing.  My dad was always a volunteer for different organizations and I know he would be happy to see that I am carrying on his legacy in such a meaningful way.

Have you been in contact with your father's organ recipients?

Through volunteering, I have had the opportunity to meet many recipients, though not his specifically, and it has enriched my life immeasurably.  What I've noticed is that the recipients are always very interested in my story.  So many of the volunteers are recipients and I have noticed that many of them don't get the opportunity to meet donor family members as often.  However, it is often a very emotional experience for both if they do.

Being a donor family member; what would you say to those that haven't yet considered the importance of speaking about organ donation amongst family and friends and registering one's decision to give?

It's so important because you are way more likely to require a transplant than to donate.  The conditions are so specific as to how you might pass away (sudden, close to a hospital, etc.) that such a small percentage are eligible.  It's really, really important!  So many lives can be affected by this one decision.

 Organ donation is a vital part of BC's milestone of 50 Years of Transplant. What would you like to share about all those that have given the gift of life, including your dad, to offer a second chance at hope, happiness, and future to so many?

When we told my grandson (who was 10 at the time) what had happened with my dad, about being an organ donor, he said, "Bob's a Hero!"  I believed that then and I believe that now.  Anyone who gives the gift of life is a hero to those who receive.  Hope is all you can ask for!

What's your perspective on the milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?

The work that has occurred over the past 50 years is incredible!  There have been so many advances in the field and I know the future will hold countless more.  I believe that educating the public is so important to the future of life saving transplants.

BC Transplant; 50in50
SOURCE: 24. #50YearsofTransplant: Kary Michaels ( )
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