Monday, 21 September 2009

Life is beautiful

I try not to weigh in on too many ethical arguments, I believe everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but organ donation is too close to my heart for me to stay out of completely. I think it’s because it’s such an essentially ‘good’ thing to be in favour of, there really isn’t a downside. Obviously your death might be seen as the downside, but that’s pretty much going to happen anyway. My thoughts on the whole subject are fairly simple: you die (fingers crossed reasonably old, quick & painless), you are cremated/buried/mummified depending on your mortal preferences – and that’s probably it. No more breathing, blood-pumping or toxin-ridding required. Even if you believe you’ll be hanging out with Jesus, Buddha, Allah or all of the above, that’s probably the soul part of you, right? Not the flesh and tissue. This may all seem a bit brutal, but who can argue that you need your physical wholeness to enter the next world, achieve nirvana, or just become part of the earth, Lion King style? I haven’t met anyone with a serious philosophical objection to organ removal once you’re pronounced braindead. Here are the scary facts: you are more likely to need a transplant than to become a donor. And although 90% of the population support organ donation, only 25% are on the Organ Donor Register.

However, who’s to say what my opinion on all this would be without a personal link to organ donation? As I’m sure most of you know, my older sister who I’m very close to was on the brink of death three years ago from progressive lung damage caused by Cystic Fibrosis, and was saved only by the generosity of strangers. A family who bravely rose above all the emotional turmoil of a bereavement and chose to make a difference for several people in dire need of an organ transplant (one person donating can save the life of up to nine people waiting). She received her new lungs in January 2007, and has gone from being a wafer-thin, icy pale thing devoid of energy, barely able to draw breath, to being a rosy-pink, energetic, noisy woman able to get married, get working, move into a new house… the difference is indescribable, all because complete strangers opened their mind to the prospect of giving the gift of life.

My sister made an appearance on GMTV this morning talking about a friend she made through a CF support network online, who is now at the point she was three years ago, the point where doctors sat us down and told us to say our goodbyes, as she had no reserve left to fight another lung collapse. Like Emily, Jessica is miraculously fighting through, but after four years of waiting, it is no longer her responsibility to prolong her life. She has kept her end of the bargain – the transplant waiting list demands staying in the country, not working or going out too much, preserving your health as carefully as possible for the operation – and now the rest of the country needs to chip in and boost her odds of survival. If you do nothing else today, please have a look at the facts , and consider signing up to the NHS donor register. Better still, talk to your family, your partner or your close friends about what they would want for their body if their time was up. If you want to spread the word and help Jess have a shot at the wonderful future my sister has been lucky enough

to experience, please repost Jess’s story in your facebook status, Twitter, blog or email the message to your friends or colleagues. The only way we can stop the amount of people dying per year is to pass this on.

Emily pre-transplant


  1. Very well put and inspiring. I agree with you...its time to act on the facts. We know that this can be turned around...please click on or ring 0300 123 23 23...Jess is one of many and she has put in a lot of hard work to stay YOU can help her by just taking 2 mins of your time...

  2. What an awesome blog! You write so openly and honestly and make people face the facts.

  3. Love it. I dont think ive ever seen a pic of Em Pre transplant, she is still gorgeous as ever, but you can see the massive difference :-) she has a huge glow now that is totally infectious and you cant help but smile with her (even if its online and ur thousands of miles away!)

    I wrote a similar blog last night if you want to check it out:

  4. Fabulous blog, I love the way you write!

    So open, honest and factual!


  5. Top stuff - let's get more people donating organs. Just to address a few points in your first paragraph as a matter of interest:
    1) Hanging out with the Divine post-mortem. In fact, Christianity takes more or less seriously the idea of bodily resurrection. The soul business is a bit of a Greek philosophy import which got a contemporary foothold as a result of Descartes' arguments about the self. Thus, the more seriously a Christian takes bodily resurrection, the more of a problem they're likely to have with organ donation. But this isn't technically a philosophical argument against it. It's just an answer to your question "who can argue that you need your physical wholeness to enter the next world?" Historically, it's a (the?) reason why Europe went in for burial rather than cremation.

    2) A philosophical argument would be: there is something important about bodily integrity and dignity after death which is ignored when we chop bits out of fresh cadavers; if this instinct is mistaken, then why don't we allow human cadavers to be used for industrial processes, fertiliser, or other important things that currently use up the Earth's resources? It seems on your "it's just flesh and tissue" argument that, after organ removal, we really ought to be considering other ways that we can usefully employ dead bodies.

    All the best...

  6. Very valid points, thanks Stuart. It's always interesting to hear arguments both pro and con.

    Particularly 2): I'm not sure about becoming fertiliser but I'm pretty sure I'll end up as ashes anyway, I think it would be more for the loved ones I leave behind that I'd want a more romantic distribution than the compost heap! But I think potentially saving lives and even donating for medical research are very valid causes to leave your body to, if you have a similarly indifference attitude to the afterlife.

    Hope others are compelled to comment with their views on the above too :)

  7. Hey Miss Write…

    Your post today is absolutely beautiful – thank you for writing so eloquently about a topic that is so very important… The awareness you’re helping spread about Jess and her plight is incredible – she is in my thoughts and prayers and what you and LLTGL are doing to spread the word is amazing…

    The ability to write seems as it might be a genetic trait – I’ve followed your sister for quite some time, through her wait and through her transplant… I can’t count the number of times she’s had me weeping with beautiful and joyful, and sometimes difficult things she’s addressed… Your post reminds me of reading hers…

    In his response, Stuart wrote, “there is something important about bodily integrity and dignity after death which is ignored when we chop bits out of fresh cadavers” Perhaps I’m taking some of this out of context – but what could be more dignified than saving another human life, or two or three or seven, after we’ve left this life? And as for integrity – how better to honor life when you’ve lost yours, than to pass it on to others that they may live a little longer?

    Thank you again for this beautiful post.

    Love, Steve

    Steve Ferkau
    Chicago, Illinois, USA

  8. Hi Miss Write, thanks for visiting and for your kind comments, but you and Em state the case far more eloquently than I do because of what you've been through. This post, deservedly has certainly stimulated some interesting responses and I'm looking forwards to reading more of your writing. I've added you to my list of 'feeds' so I receive regular updates!