Organ and Tissue Donation: From Both Sides of the Story

Carolyn Desjardins with dialysis patient Stan Hunter at All Saints Springhill Hospital.

Carolyn Desjardins works every day with people who are waiting for a kidney transplant. As an LPN in the dialysis unit at All Saints Springhill Hospital, she has come to appreciate the importance of organ and tissue donation and understands how agonizing the wait can be. Approximately one-half of the patients she sees are waiting for a transplant and are hoping every time the phone rings it is “that” call. 

Over the years, she and her family had talked about donation. One such discussion was triggered by a t-shirt she wore a few years ago that said “don’t take your organs with you, heaven knows we need them here”. Her children were intrigued and while explaining the meaning of the slogan, she and her husband both made it clear they wished to be donors.

Maybe that’s why in the summer of 2015 when the unthinkable happened, Carolyn was able to make a difficult choice with calmness and grace. Her husband Craig, a paramedic supervisor with Emergency Health Services (EHS), died very suddenly at age 41 while the family was on vacation. Amid her shock and grief, and with support from her children who were 11 and 14 at the time, when Carolyn was approached about organ donation she knew it was what Craig would have wanted. As she says, “Craig spent his life saving others, why not save one more”.   

Because of the circumstances of Craig’s death and the efforts to save him, only his lungs were viable for transplant however Carolyn knows they went to a man in Ontario who was also 41 years old. He has a young family and today is grateful for the second chance at life. 

Carolyn encourages everyone to not only sign their donor card but also tell your family your wishes. “It’s never too early to talk about organ and tissue donation and while it won’t prepare you for losing a loved one, it could save someone else’s life. It brought our family some comfort and a sense of closure at the most difficult time of our lives”.

For more information on organ and tissue donation, go to the Legacy of Life website.