Edward Stern is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on the subject of vocational schools for the Guide to Career Education.
My niece Janie was extremely sharp for a young girl. She excelled in all aspects of school and had many friends. Her personality was simply magnetic, and her friendships seemed to cross the borders of normal cliques. What impressed me the most about her was her giving nature, always willing to help others.
One time when I was with her and my sister (Janie's mother) we were walking downtown and passed a homeless man. I'd given Janie a couple bucks earlier in the day to spend on candy or a little trinket during our shopping adventure. After passing the guy down on his luck, she stopped, turned around, and without hesitation gave him her money. We were all shocked, and the gentleman was very appreciative. When I asked Janie why she did that, she replied, "Because he needed it more than I did. Candy is bad for you anyways."
In a culture so vain and bent on consumerism, Janie was an anomaly, always caring for others and being completely selfless. Tragically, she passed on after a car accident. But before that, she made the decision to be an organ donor.
Her mother told me about that decision, which Janie made after learning of organ donation over the news. I didn't agree with the decision. I thought organ donation was just an unpleasant act. I thought organs should stay put and that we shouldn't go around turning people into Frankenstein creations. I kept my opinions silent from Janie—as I always supported her in all her choices— and after that initial conversation, I never really thought about it. She made the decision when she was 11. Organ donation did not seem to be in her immediate future, certainly not while I was still walking this earth.
The car accident was absolutely devastating. It seemed Janie had been robbed of her life, of so much potential to do good on this earth and make others happy. After the accident, paramedics took her to the hospital. Janie was going to continue to give.
At first, I was truly outraged, but I kept my feelings to myself. I didn't want to upset my sister more during such an awful time. I got word that the hospital was able to salvage Janie’s organs and that they were going to go to some children in need. As it turns out, that was all I needed to hear. I blocked any negative preconceptions from my mind. It wasn't hard to do so, being in mourning for my little niece.
Months went by and wounds continued to heal, though a part of me seemed to be gone forever. Then I received a call from my sister. She was going to get a visit from another little girl. This little girl had been very sick and had received a kidney transplant from Janie. She was going to come visit the family to give her thanks.
I struggled. I didn't know if I should go. I eventually did, to support my sister. It was life changing, and I am so grateful I was able to meet Eva. A beautiful little girl so full of life, she couldn't thank us enough for Janie's gift. No thanks was necessary to us—it was all Janie's
After losing one life, we gained another, and a whole family to boot. Eva and her family are now close with ours. It has been amazing to watch this little girl grow up, one who would not have had a chance otherwise. I still hurt knowing Janie is not here. But having Eva helps so much. It
made me realize how wrong I was about organ donation, and what a beautiful, amazing, truly life-changing gift it really is.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario at Trillium Gift of Life Network NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You