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Through the eyes of a nurse

All clinicians enter health care with one ultimate purpose – to save lives.

But sometimes all the training and hard work isn’t enough. When patients pass away, clinicians are faced with another life-saving choice – organ donation.

But the choice isn’t up to them. It’s up to you, and to every individual who knows that someday they could face a tragic event.

Here, three critical care nurses share their stories about organ donation – the hard choices and the lives saved.

Critical care nurses share their stories about organ donation:

Deborah Hutcheson, RN, Emergency Center

As an ER nurse for more than 10 years, the organ donation process was a foreign concept. I knew when to notify Sharing Hope, South Carolina organ and tissue recovery service, about a patient, but the process wasn’t personal until my sweet nephew was born in need of a kidney transplant, and then a liver transplant.

A whole new world opened up to me when I saw firsthand what the amazing gift of life could mean to a family ... a child. The whole process spoke only of hope and healing with the opportunity to give life. Nothing can compare to the feeling of thankfulness when you learn that the surgeon was offered a perfectly matched organ. True hope.

Now as I make that first phone call from the emergency room, I pray that another family might make that hard but selfless decision to share the gift of life. 

Hannah Godfrey, RN, Surgical Trauma ICU

Organ donation is very important to me as a nurse. It’s exhilarating when someone is given a second chance at life. It is a gift that continues to live on.

Every day people are added to the transplant list, but sadly others pass on while waiting for their second chance.

As a nurse, it is a privilege to care for an organ donation patient and their family members. When a family is given a tragic, life-changing diagnosis, it’s my job to not only care for their loved one but let them know that I’m here for them also.

Not only are nurses caregivers and patient advocates, but we provide an empathetic ear and compassionate hand when it feels like those family members are drowning in sadness. 

It is nice knowing that I can play a pivotal role in the healing process and that these families can have peace knowing that their loved one has saved someone’s life.

I’m an organ donor because if I can save even just one life, it’s worth it. 

Lori Whitlock, BSN, RN, Neurological ICU

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be in health care. I've been a nurse in the ICU for 10 years and cannot imagine working anywhere else. I take great pride in working with donor patients and their families.

When I have a donor patient I feel like I am not only making a difference in my patient and their family’s lives but also all the potential recipients and their families' lives as well.

As a critical care bedside nurse, my job becomes harder because of the complexity of managing a donor patient but becomes even more rewarding knowing all the lives that are going to be impacted by the generosity of the donor and their family.

I feel one of the most important duties while caring for a potential donor is providing comfort to the family during this difficult time and during the transition to the organ donation team for potential organ procurement.

Compassionate care must begin at the bedside for donors and their families. I honor the patient by providing the family with a patient’s handprints on a poem they can frame later. It is a small gesture that means the world to families who have just lost a very important loved one.

As a critical care bedside nurse, I strive to be the best at what I do to get other people's family members back home. Sometimes that is not possible and I have to change my role to be a support for their families during the worst times of their lives.

I treat families and patients how I would want to be treated if I were here in their situation. My patients and their families impact my life.

Organ donation is important to me because so many people die each day waiting on an organ that through donation could save their live.

To me, organ donation is the gift of life. It is not the end of a story, but just the beginning of one for so many more people. Anyone could be a potential donor, but unfortunately there are fewer donor organs than there are people waiting in need. We never know when we ourselves, our child, our spouse, our friend, may be in need of a lifesaving organ.

Learn more about Organ Donation

Organ, Tissue and Eye donation often impacts healthcare workers on a personal and profession level as the stories included demonstrate. It becomes challenging when the outcome of the donation is not known or how the donor family is doing.

Not knowing can leave a void, but dedication to compassionate care is a reminder that life is a precious gift.

Sign up to be an organ donor at SharingHopeSC.com