Providing education, advocacy and support of organ donation isn’t just part of my professional role, it’s part of my personal life as a wife, mom and daughter.
My personal story
Eleven years ago this month, just months after the birth of our first child, our family received the phone call that would not only change our lives, but also change the course of my career. My father-in-law was in desperate need of a liver transplant. After 18 months on the transplant list and months in the hospital, he received word that a donor had been identified. In just a few hours he would be in the operating room getting a liver — and a second chance.
It was one of the strangest feelings to know that as we celebrated this gift, another family, on what was likely their darkest of days, turned their tragedy into our miracle. Because of that gift, my children will grow up having their grandfather in their lives. They will also know that their “BePaw” is here because of the selfless gift given to him and to all of us, the gift of life.
After Gary received his transplant I felt compelled to share his story in order to advocate for organ donation. Little did I know when I accepted a job at the UVM Medical Center nearly seven years ago that it would allow me to combine my personal mission of organ donation advocacy into one that also became professional.
My professional life as a nurse case manager
As the nurse case manager in the intensive care unit my role is to support patients and families while they are under our care. I have the opportunity to educate them, advocate for them, and support them as they navigate the often uncharted waters of critical illness.
Unfortunately, sometimes this means supporting families as they learn that their loved one is not going to survive. This is a role that I do not take for granted. Each and every time I am humbled and honored to be the person who families turn to in a time that is so profoundly personal. They share their story with me, and most importantly the story of their loved one. Sometimes this story includes how loving and giving their loved one was that it seems that their loved one would want to be an organ donor as a way to leave a legacy of love and generosity by living on in the lives of others.
When families meet with the CDT coordinator and consent to donation, I do my best to be the first face they see after they say “Yes.” Not only to provide the support they need, but to say “Thank you.” The opportunity to share with families how this same decision changed my family’s life allows me to honor the young person who gave BePaw another chance at life.
The impact of organ donation
I have countless stories about the incredible families I have met, who have let me in their circle. I can assure you that organ donation not only changes the lives of the organ recipients and their families, but all of us who are lucky enough to be touched by these families who make the selfless decision to “Donate Life.”
In a time filled with so much negativity and sadness, to see the selfless gift given with grace and dignity reminds us that there is still so much good in this world.
To learn more about organ donation, please visit Donate Life Vermont.
Amy Lumsden, RN, is a nurse case manager in the intensive care unit at the University of Vermont Medical Center.