The most selfless gift: an interview with a QCH organ donor

Sarah Willis joined Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) in 2012 and worked as a Patient Care Aid in the Emergency Department for many years. Now, she is an Administrative Control Clerk on the Medicine Surgical unit and in Diagnostic Imaging. Sarah agreed to share her experience with organ donation in hopes that it will bring awareness and hopefully encourage more people to sign their donor cards and get involved in helping others.

Why did you become a donor?
Years ago, a good friend of mine required a transplant. Watching him go through the process to find a living donor really spoke to me about the importance of organ donation in all aspects. Unfortunately, my friend did not make it.

So, I made a promise that I would do everything I could to bring awareness to organ donation and that I would also be responsible, at some point in my life, for removing at least one person’s name from the transplant list. I continue to keep this promise.

What was the most challenging part of donation?
The most challenging part for me was trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in post-donation. That took a lot of pillows and strategic positioning.

What was the most rewarding?
Saving a life. In 2019 I donated 27% of my liver anonymously. Since I chose to donate anonymously, I will never know my recipient. However, at my 6-week follow-up my amazing surgeon was kind enough to let me know that it went to a little girl under the age of one who was discharged home and is thriving. Every day I look down at my scar, and it reminds me of that incredible feeling.

What would you tell someone who was thinking of becoming an organ donor?
Do your research, speak to many other living donors about their experiences, ask all your questions and ensure you have a great support system. Then.. do it! There is no greater feeling in this world than saving a life.

Any other thoughts to share?
I do not share this for attention or praise but to raise awareness about donation through my experience. The need for donation is high, and everyone can be a part of saving a life — through live donation, registering to be an organ/tissue donor (sign those cards!), completing a swab test, and getting yourself on the stem cell registry. You can also give blood or simply spread awareness.