Wikitoria lost her son Clifford in an accident in 2012. She shares her experience of the organ donation process below, which also included taking Clifford home to the family marae for a night.
Even though Wikitoria knew that Clifford was brain dead, she said the hardest part of the process was saying goodbye to her son. "When it was time for goodbyes I wanted to scream and say they weren't having his body but I knew I couldn't because there was no point, he was dead."
Clifford Tuhi Thompson was 36 when he was involved in a bicycle accident in 2012. He was taken to Middlemore Hospital where he was ventilated and admitted to the intensive care unit where, despite the efforts of the intensive medical specialists, sadly he died from a non-survivable brain injury.
Wikitoria said organ donation was raised with the family shortly after Clifford’s death. “The intensive care doctor came in. When he asked if we would consider organ donation, there was no doubt in my mind. It would be terrible if his perfectly good organs were not used to help the lives of other people."
He had been a loving and giving person. He enjoyed doing things for other people and his love for his mother Wikitoria was unconditional. He always wanted to help others, especially children, and it's for this reason that Wikitoria said yes to organ donation.
"We discussed organ donation as a family and it was agreed." Wikitoria was later to hear that Clifford's heart had gone to a young man and part of his liver went to a young girl. "He would have just been so pleased."
The family then grappled with the very common debate around cremation vs burial. "I said to the family Clifford would be cremated and then we can take his ashes back home to Hawke's Bay. It was very important to me that this happened. Then Wikitoria's nephew phoned her niece who was with Wikitoria in the ICU. He was upset with the decision to cremate and instead organised for Clifford to be taken back to the Marae in Hawke's Bay and buried. This did not change Wikitoria's mind about the organ donation and the family were again in agreement.
Many people are under the misunderstanding that organ donation removes the opportunity for open casket viewing. But this is not the case.
"We had Clifford at home (the Marae) for one night and the wharenui was full of people telling stories about him. Everyone was laughing. An older woman stood up and said 'I think we should give Clifford a standing ovation because of the gift of organs he has given to help others'," explained Wikitoria. "I know he would have been so pleased when they gave him a standing ovation."
She said in this poignant action, there was a lessening of the reservations surrounding organ donation. There wasn't the aversion in the room as there sometimes can be in Maori culture. And this is why Wikitoria wants to tell her story - she wants to help raise awareness of organ donation, particularly within her own culture. And remove some of the misunderstandings that surround it. "It is about promoting it to our people."
"I believe that we may have finished with our body, but our spirit still lives on and organ donation doesn't prevent this."
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