Organ donation

Liz - Interview 17

Female
Age at interview: 46

Brief outline: Liz's husband, Rick, sadly died of a brain haemorrhage in 2000, aged 38. They had four young children. Liz advised being open and honest with children, answering their questions as fully as possible and involving them in decisions about the funeral.

Background: Liz is a supermarket admin assistant and has four children. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

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Rick

 

Liz’s husband, Rick, sadly died of a brain haemorrhage in 2000, aged 38. A few weeks before he died, he and Liz had a conversation about organ donation because of a programme they’d been watching on television. The conversation became particularly relevant a few weeks later when Rick was admitted to hospital, out of the blue, after collapsing while playing football.

Liz assumed that Rick had broken his leg but, at the hospital, was told that he’d had a seizure when he arrived and needed support with his breathing. He was later transferred to another hospital, with a neurological unit, where doctors hoped he could be helped.

Doctors told Liz that Rick had had a brain haemorrhage, and he was admitted to intensive care. This was shocking, traumatic news that Liz felt could have been given more sensitively and explained more carefully. She said, “Nobody said, ‘He’s going to die.’ Or ‘there’s a possibility he was going to die.’  Nobody had actually said that to me. So all you do, or all I did was, you hang onto the doctors and the nurses words, but only the positive ones. Because you don’t want to think of anything else.”

Sadly, when Rick’s condition deteriorated and Liz knew he was unlikely to survive, their four young children were encouraged to visit hospital to see their Dad. Remembering the conversation she’d had with Rick some weeks earlier, Liz asked the nurse about organ donation, knowing this and being cremated were Rick’s wishes.

Liz said she was unprepared for seeing Rick just before the donation took place and would have liked more information about this. She said, “I had this vision in my head that that you’d go in and they’d turn the machine off. And his chest would stop going up and down and obviously he’d die… With organ donation, that doesn’t happen because they have to keep your blood flow going and they have to keep your chest pumping up and down. And they have to keep you warm and your organs alive to harvest them. But I didn’t realise that… It’s haunted me for the last ten years. I couldn’t believe that I had to do that. You turn around and you walk away but, to me, he was still warm and his chest was still going up and down, so therefore he was still alive.”

Liz praised the support she got from the specialist nurse [donor co-ordinator] at the time and afterwards. The recipient of Rick’s liver wrote to them about six months after Rick’s death. He continues to write to Liz’s youngest daughter who has liver problems herself and may, one day, need a transplant. About two years after Rick’s death, Liz met this recipient with their specialist nurses present. 

Liz had a lot of support from her family, and gained support from bereavement counselling. An important concern was how her children would cope with the death of their father. She advised being open and honest with children, answering their questions as fully as possible and involving them in decisions about the funeral. She is proud of her children and how they have all coped.
 

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