As I write this, I am waiting to hear whether or not my cousin has gone to surgery to receive a liver transplant. Of course, his immediate family, his friends, and our extended family are all praying and sending positive thoughts; we know he needs this new liver and are hoping that the call he got last night was the one.
I can't help but reflect upon my own experiences as a nurse with the organ transplant process. I know that somewhere over the last 24 hours there has been a nurse, several nurses, who have walked that incredibly thin line between supporting a family who have heard horrific news and made a brave decision and working with a transplant team who are focused on providing organs to those in need.
While I don't like the concept of "sides" in this process, I can't think of another word. I have only working with patients and their families on the donor side of transplantation, not the recipient side. In my career I have only cared for a handful of organ donors and their families, but I remember these patients clearly.
I remember hours, shifts, even days of waiting for test results to determine the suitability of organs while families try to come to grips with the idea of their loved one being dead, but still looking very much alive. I remember wanting to yell at the organ procurement nurse that the decision has been made, take the donor's organs already and get it done. I remember the heartbreak of families who have already dealt with devastating news by agreeing to organ donation, only to find out that the organs are not suitable. Unfortunately, it is sometimes a long and arduous process, this preparation for procurement of donated organs.
Caring for the organ donor patient and family can be one of the most emotionally challenging and exhausting for nurses. It calls on the use of all of the caring, empathy, patience, and self-protective skills we have.
This morning I am hoping and praying that my cousin receives a transplanted liver that will save his life. I am also proud and grateful for the nurses who have been caring for the donor and the donor's family, in the way only nurses can.