An interview with Michelle, daughter of an organ donor
Tell us about your dad, Glenn.
My dad grew up in Richmond, BC. He was a proud father, devoted husband and loving friend. His biggest accomplishments include his beautiful family and home in Steveston, his boat, his career in the Richmond Fire-Rescue, and his extensive involvement in the Richmond community as a whole.
Most people remember him by his infectious smile, contagious personality and willingness to offer his help any chance he got. He joined the Richmond Fire-Rescue in 1975, which turned into a fulfilling career spanning over 36 years. He brought on a tremendous team of heroes known as friends, starting as firefighter and rising to Lieutenant in 1998, Captain in 2000 and lastly, Battalion Chief in 2004.
In his retired years, my dad continued to nurture his community connections and became an operator for C-Tow, tending to the waters and rescuing stranded boats along the Fraser River and surrounding areas. At the very end of his life my dad donated his organs, saving the lives of four people, and giving the gift of sight to another.
Your dad gave a lot back to his community, what did this meant to you?
Dad was the most selfless person I've ever known and he was always putting others first. He was an excellent role model for many, including myself. As a little girl growing up I'd watch him constantly strive for the next best thing and this influenced me to do the same. I remember when I was in Grade 5 I brought him to school with me one day for show & tell. I was SO proud and eager to show him off and I felt incredibly lucky that he was my dad.
You know when you're a kid and everything in the world is magical and you think your parents are superheroes? Then you grow up a little bit and experience new things and come to realize that your parents are actually just everyday people and there is absolutely nothing magical about them at all? The truth is, that last part never really applied to my dad. He may not have been magical but he was, and always will be, my hero.
What does organ donation mean to you?
To me, organ donation means creating opportunities for others in the face of tragedy and demise. As someone who has been through the process of organ donation due to the loss of a loved one, the meaning of organ donation is very different to me than that of an organ recipient or even a living organ donor.
The truth is, I still grieve my dad every day and I struggle with understanding the repercussions of my dad's accident. He is gone forever, and that is worst feeling in the world. But at the same time, all these people now get to live because of his organ donation. It feels good to know the positive impact this experience has had on the recipients and their families.
Is there a message you'd like to share with your dad's organ recipients?
I have yet to reach out to any of my dad's organ recipients, although we did receive a kind letter from the person who received islet cells from his pancreas. It brought me to tears knowing how much this person's quality of life has improved and how grateful they are to have received my dad's unique gift. I suppose if there is anything I want to share with these recipients, it is to ask them to please take good care of his organs. Please don't neglect this gift you've been given, treasure it immensely, and know that the person it came from was one of the most wonderful people in the whole world.
(Father daughter dance at Michelle's wedding)
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your dad?
Making the decision to donate my dad's organs was the easiest decision I had to make during the days following his accident. I remember our Organ Donation Specialist (Lauren) delicately reading through the list of viable organs to donate. My brother had left the room and my mom sat across from me in disbelief of what was happening.
Lauren carefully listed out each organ or category of organs to possibly be donated, and we were to say yes or no. Each time she read something out, my Mom winced in pain. "His eyes?" she cried. In that moment, a distant memory replayed in my head of dad and I standing around the kitchen counter years ago. I had just gotten my learner's license and received a form in the mail to sign up for organ donation. The exact details are foggy but I do recall going through the same organ list with my dad and him clearly responding, "Just give it all. What are you going to need them for by then?"
That, and the fact that we were given a copy of his organ donation form he had filled out and signed himself where he checked every single box, made it easy for me to approve all of his organs be eligible for donation. The very next day, four lives were saved.
(Family photo at Michelle's wedding)