On March 10, 2009, when her 22-year-old son died following a car accident, Heather Talbot was approached by the Trillium Gift of Life Network about donating her son’s organs. She was shocked by the experience.
“I had never ever thought about (organ donation) before,” Heather Talbot said. “But our daughter Emily said that he wanted to do that … because they had talked about it.”
Talbot was undecided about organ donation principally because of her religion. When she expressed this concern, Sunnybrook Hospital introduced her to a rabbi who assured her that this deed was OK because it would save a life. With his approval and assurance about the number of lives that could be saved, Heather and Terry Talbot made arrangements for their son Jonathan’s kidneys, liver and lungs to be donated to four of the 1,500 people on Ontario’s transplant waiting list.
“This is something good that happened for four people out of something tragic that happened to me,” she said. “It’s sad that we had to lose our son for these people to continue their lives, but at least that came out of it.”
Nicole Poos, volunteer services advisor at the Trillium Gift of Life Network, says organ donation can be unnerving to some families, especially when they haven’t discussed it previously. The organization helps recipients correspond with donor families through anonymous letters. Poos says this process reinforces the good nature of the family’s decision. Families say the letters help with the loss by allowing the recipients to express their gratitude.
“I just bawl my eyes out every time I get one of those cards but I’m very happy to receive them,” Talbot said. “It reassures me that I made the right decision.”
On March 26, Jonathan Talbot’s friends and family gathered to honour his memory and raise awareness of organ donation. The event invited both donor families and transplant recipients to celebrate the gift of life.
Kimberly Stahlbaum is the recipient of two separate liver transplants in 1992 and 1996. She says an organ transplant is more of a treatment than a cure for those who suffer from more than one medical ailment, but it gives life and hope to people who feel they’re about to lose both.
“It does certainly give back life because I wouldn’t be alive,” Stahlbaum said. “I was in the hospital with my funeral arrangements and my will made knowing I wasn’t coming home unless I got an organ.”
Stahlbaum believes it’s important to hold events that allow donor families to remember their loved-ones and see recipients enjoying the gift of life.
“It brings back the family and friends and they know that something good came out of their loved-one’s life,” she said. “It’s very rewarding for the family and friends to have (transplant) recipients here to show the success in other stories.”