NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Carolyn Desjardins, the wife of an organ donor and a nurse in the dialysis unit at All Saints Springhill Hospital in Cumberland County. National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is April 23-29.
Nothing prepared me for the sudden death of my husband, Craig, almost two years ago. But because he was an organ donor, his death allowed another man to live.
That’s why it’s never too early to talk to your family about organ and tissue donation. It won’t prepare you for losing someone, but it could save someone else’s life at one of the worst times in your own.
On a sunny Natal Day weekend in 2015, Craig and I were enjoying our last day of vacation, with our children, then 11 and 14, and some of our friends. As we discussed our plans for a beach picnic that afternoon, my husband made pancakes while I soaked in my last hours of relaxation.
That’s when our lives changed forever. Without any warning, my husband collapsed in front of me.
My friends and I jumped into action right away, performing CPR. Within a short time he was airlifted to Halifax. We got him back twice, but by the time we arrived, he was gone.
It was a pulmonary embolism that had gone to his brain. No signs. No symptoms. He was alive one minute and gone the next.
Craig was a paramedic and I am a nurse. We had been caring for the people of Cumberland County for over 20 years when Craig passed away.
I work in the dialysis unit. Day after day, I see patients coming in for treatment that keeps them alive while they wait for the permanent solution – an organ transplant. Every time the phone rings I see their hope, their anxiety and unfortunately, their disappointment.
That’s why, years before his death, Craig and I took the time to talk about organ donation together and with our children. When Craig died, that conversation made it easier for me to make the decision. There was no question, in my mind or my husband’s, that he wanted to be an organ donor.
Craig’s lungs went to a man who was the same age as him at the time, 41. He had an eight-year-old son who was waiting for him to get better. Thanks to Craig’s invaluable gift, he did.
My husband’s death has been an incredible loss, but knowing he saved someone else brings our family comfort. Craig spent his career saving lives – why not one more?
I encourage everyone to talk to their loved ones about organ and tissue donation, and consider signing your consent form today to give the gift of life.