The following is an op-ed from Karen Belliveau, the aunt of organ donor Mandi Diane LeBlanc of Church Point, Digby County. She write this for National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, which was April 23-29.
Mandi's last wish was to give the gift of life. As tragic as her death was, it is the resounding impact of her wishes that are etched in our memories and offer solace as nothing else has.
On April 27, 2014, Mandi was recognized by the province of Nova Scotia for selflessly giving the gift of life.
Mandi was one of the most kind and wisest souls you could hope to meet. Heartbreakingly, she died at the age of 23.
The loss of our beloved Mandi and realization that she would never be with us again in the physical form was earth shattering. The days following her death were much of a blur.
Confusion and anguish was interspersed with clarity and resolve for what we needed to do to honour her.
Even at her young age, Mandi possessed so much wisdom. Her understanding was that once she vacated her body, what was left behind had unlimited potential. This potential could be given to people with aspirations and dreams – grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.
Death is inevitable, yet we have witnessed firsthand that it can be deferred with life sustaining donations.
Through Mandi's death there was a rebirth of herself within the people she saved. Through her organs and tissues, others are seeing through her eyes, and made whole and sound again. All because of her desire to give the gift of life.
Mandi's lived journey was not in vain. She left a legacy, helping others in death.
During the ceremony where Mandi was recognized by the province, we, her loved ones, were surrounded by the tremendous gratitude and love of donors, recipients and, their families. We were deeply moved and humbled by these shared experiences. We were also struck by the things we took for granted as organ recipients exuberantly described being able to partake in life rather than being passive participants until their death – holding a loved one's hand, brushing one's teeth, baking cookies.
Mandi made a difference. She gave a gift borne from her humanitarian nature, based on the love she had for all people.
The magic is that we all have the gift and it is ours to give. Talk to your loved ones about organ and tissue donation and your wishes.
Please consider signing your consent form today and give the gift of life.