We’ve told the stories of recipients, living donors and people on the waiting list, but this is the first time we are featuring a story from the donor’s family. Lisa Smorenburg, 54, from a small town in the Southern Cape called Riviersonderend, has graciously agreed to tell her story or donating her sons organs.
1. What is your relationship to donor?
I am the mother of the donor. He was my only child.
2. Do you know if your loved one wanted to be an organ donor – did you have the conversation?’
I know my son always wanted to help people. At school he was a rugby medic and he joined the Hessiqua lifesaving club and became a life guard at Stillbay in the holidays. We had talked about when I passed, what I wanted, and I told him that I wanted my organs donated and to be cremated. After a number of questions and answers, he said that that would be his wish as well.
3. What made you decide to donate your loved ones organs/tissue?
I have been an organ donor for years. We don’t need our physical bodies when we’re gone, so why not help someone who is suffering.
4. Describe the emotions experienced when you were told that your loved ones organs/tissue are suitable for donation?
Well, first I had to make the decision to switch off the machine. This was difficult because what if there is a chance of life still? What will his life be like if he does live?
After that the doctor asked what we would like to do with the body and if we would consider Organ donation. I was all for organ donation because Storm and I had talked about it, but the big worry was Storm’s dad. Would he agree? We asked the doctor to give us a few minutes to discuss the situation. I was totally blown away when the door closed and Storm’s dad said let go the Organ donation way. His only request was that I handle all the paper work. I went is search of the doctor and told him we would like to donate Storm’s organs. He sent a lady, I can’t remember any more if she was an admin person or a nurse. She came with a lot of papers which we filled out. She said someone would come and see me and explain the process from here. As it turned out, the papers had to be redone because the ones the hospital had had were out of date. The lady explained everything to me. I was very sad, but glad if someone else can be helped. When this happens, you don’t remember everything. It all runs into each other and you still wonder if you have done the right thing. The nurses and the doctors on the ward were really sympathetic. They listened and talked and explained things to me over and over. Today I am happy Storm did not die for nothing, that he could help other people. I think it has also helped a lot meeting some of the people that he could help and seeing how their lives have improved.
5. What is life like now? Do you think donating their organs assisted you in the grieving process?
Life now is very different. I think organ donation did help with the grieving process. I still went through a rough time but it did help. It make you think that his life had a purpose and he didn’t die for nothing.
6. Do you think having the conversation about organ donation is important in assisting the decision making at time of death?
I definitely think this is important. This is the reason Storm and I talked about it. People are scared to talk about death, so they avoid talking about it. If your loved ones know what your wishes are, it make the burden of the decision easier on them.
7. What advice would you give to people considering donation?
I would encourage them to become organ donors. What have they got to loose. It is only a vessel for us to use. Why must the worms be fed when you can save someone else’s life.
8. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
I don’t think it is out there as much. The blood donor’s foundation you hear about a lot on the radio. You see the busses on the road… I think because it is a secret as to who gave what and who received what also plays a roll. I understand the need for this as I have learnt a lot about all this in the last couple of years, but I still think people need to see and hear more.
9. What is the biggest stigma / myth you have heard about organ donation?
I’m too old or I am on chronic medication. I smoke….
10. If you could describe donation in one word, what would it be?