Bill Grahn’s late wife, Shara-Lea. (Photo contributed)

Become an organ donor, you could save a life

National Organ and Tissue and Awareness Donation Week takes place April 21-27.

Bill Grahn

Special to the Morning Star

March 19, 2014 started out as a great spring day. My wife Shara-Lea had won an overnight stay at one of the hotels up at Silver Star, so we were going skiing with our two youngest kid’s for a couple of days. Little did I realize that this would end up being the worst day of my life.

Shara and I, along with our children began our day on the hill. It was a beautiful warm spring day. A couple of hours later, Shara complained of a headache, so we decided to ski back into the village. But first she wanted to get in a run on her favorite track, BX express, so we headed there and began the descent. Shara was always more cautious than the rest of us, so she was usually the last one down a run. The kids and I made it down and waited at the bottom at the chairlift and waited, and waited.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, someone came down the run, saw us waiting and asked us if the lady in the blue coat was with us. He told us she was in serious trouble. I asked the lift attendant to contact ski patrol, and we made our way up the lift.

Once we arrived at the Comet chair, we were met by a patroller who said she was being taken care of and that he would take us to the ski patrol headquarters. Periodically, the patroller conversed on his radio but was unable to provide us with any info.

By this time I was very worried and scared. Finally she arrived at headquarters with numerous patrollers and an on-call doctor. I could tell by the way they were working that it was very serious. The people there tried to be comforting and helpful to us, but at this point I fell apart. I felt so helpless when I saw my wife in front of me struggling and I couldn’t do a thing to help her.

The air ambulance from Kelowna was on it’s way. At this point the doctor who was helping came and talked with me. He wasn’t able to provide a firm diagnosis, but did give me an idea of what he suspected.

The helicopter arrived and I rode in it with Shara, the kids drove to Kelowna and met me at the hospital. Later that night, after the ER staff had done all they could, a doctor came and informed us that she had suffered an anyeurism. At this point she was on life support. We were informed that the head neurologist would do further tests and tell us more in the morning.

I took the kids to a hotel and then went back to the hospital. At 4 am, our two oldest boy’s Ryan and John arrived, having driven through the night from northern Alberta where they worked. It was such a relief to have them there with me.

Later that morning, we met with the neurologist. She informed us that the anyeurism had caused severe damage. There was virtually no brain activity, and there was nothing more they could do for her.

I can’t begin to describe the pain of knowing that I lost the woman I love, my best friend and partner for 30 years and the mother of our children. Needless to say, it was a long and painful process for the entire family and continues to be.

Later that day, we met the in hospital coordinator with BC transplant to discuss organ donation.The thought of losing my love was a painful reality. But once I grasped the finality of the situation, the idea of organ donation was not actually difficult for me.

Shara and I had on occasion discussed organ donation over the years.. We were both very healthy and active individuals and we had always agreed that if anything happened to one of us, we would be happy to have our organs used to help someone else. And so, after discussion with the kids, the decision was made.

The organ donation process is quite complex, and things have to move quickly. Especially if there are multiple recipients.The health care professionals have a short time frame from organ harvest to transplant. I was very thankful that Shara and I had thought about this prior to this tragedy – it would have been a much harder decision had we not.

Eight of Shara-Lea’s organs were removed and seven of them were successfully transplanted. Unfortunately, they could not find a match for her heart. Too bad, she had such a big heart. So even in death, my beautiful wife was giving a new life to seven other people. The greatest gift in the world.

April 21 to 27th is national organ donation week. This is a time to raise awareness of the life changing benefits of organ donation.

So have an open discussion with your family about organ donation and hopefully register. It’s easy to do.

Go online to: transplant.bc.ca. All you need is a health care number and 5 minutes of your time.

To recognise national organ donation week, there will be a screening of the NFB film, Memento Mori on Wednesday, April 24 at 6:30 pm at the Vernon public library, with a discussion to follow. No charge for admission.This film explores the heartbreaking choices loved ones have to make, and the wonderful effect of their decision, the gift of life.

Related: 3,300 British Columbians register as organ donors in six days time

Related: US begins organ transplants from living donors who have HIV

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