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SALT LAKE CITY — When I applied to get my driver's license at age 16, there was one question that I remember standing out above all the rest. The question was, “would you like to be a donor?” I remember taking a second to think about that.
Never before that moment had I ever thought about what I would like to be done with my organs, tissues and other things when I died. I was never faced with such a thought as this one.
Knowing it was the right thing to do but really not understanding or even being able to wrap my head around all of the why's behind such a decision, I checked the “yes” box.
As I held my newly, laminated license in my hand, my eyes drifted to the bottom right-hand corner, where the word DONOR was written in all caps.
As years went by, and with a a couple of new renewals of my driver's license passing as well, I never really thought much about my decision to be a donor, or why it was even all that important.
However, just a few short months after my 24th birthday, all of those questions were answered. With the passing of my older sister, Megan, who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly had a loved one who was a donor.
The stark reality of this came when I, along with my mom, younger sister and sister-in-law, went to the funeral home to aid in dressing Megan for the funeral. When I felt her arms and legs, they were hard and stiff. At that time, my mom let us know that it was because much of Megan's skin, tissue, tendons, bones, as well as her corneas, were able to be donated.
To be honest, I was a little taken back by this. As terrible as it is to admit, I was sad when I heard that what I was touching was in actuality more PVC pipe than it was my sister. Then, the reassuring and calming thought entered my mind that even in death, as she did in life, my sister was able to help others to live a better and more fulfilling life.
This thought and knowledge was reconfirmed when I attended the Donor Recognition Ceremony this past Friday that was put on by the Intermountain Donor Services. This is an annual event that takes place each April, which is Donor Awareness Month, in an effort to celebrate both donors and donor recipients.
The event had gone on every year since Megan's passing, but it took my mom being a featured speaker for me to finally attend.
As I sat there, surrounded by individuals and families who, like me, had lost a loved one, I was overwhelmed with emotion. There was a lot of sadness and grieving going on in that room … myself included.
As terrible as it is to admit, I was sad when I heard that what I was touching was in actuality more PVC pipe than it was my sister. Then the ... thought entered my mind that even in death, as she did in life, my sister was able to help others to live a better and more fulfilling life.
Minutes later, the first speaker stood up and introduced herself as a donor recipient. In her speech, she spoke about being a tissue recipient. She emphasized that although her transplant was not a matter of life and death, it gave her a chance at a life that she did not have before.
Another young girl and her mother told a touching story about receiving a heart transplant after nearing complete heart failure. Their story can be found atwww.abbysperfectbrokenheart.net.
My own mother then got up and spoke so tenderly about my sister. She said, “Through the blessing of donation, Megan’s corneas were given to two different men — one in Salt Lake County and one in Venezuela — allowing them to see the good in others through her gift of clarity in vision. Her beautiful fair and very freckled skin went to burn centers here in Utah and in Augusta, Ga., allowing those with tragic burns to be able to feel, be touched and feel huggable. In her tissue donation, Megan’s very flexible joints in her knees and Achilles tendons were given to several fortunate individuals who are now better able to walk, run, maybe even kick-box and dance, which is what she loved to do.”
Each of the speakers were able to shed a light on donation in such a way that touched donor families and recipients alike.
The next time you are faced with the question, “would you like to be a donor?” mark “yes.” And when you look at your license and see the word DONOR, know that it means much more than that; you are saying yes to the life of another.
For more information on how to become a donor and what it means to be a donor, go to yesutah.org.
Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. *