Jennifer Carroll of Port Alberni has a special reason to reflect on the spirit of giving each holiday season. Her mother, Allison Sears, gave the gift of life as an organ donor on Christmas Day 2015.
Carroll is sharing her story as part of BC Transplant’s 29th annual Operation Popcorn campaign.
In the past Operation Popcorn has seen organ donor recipients, family members of organ donors and representatives from BC Transplant deliver festive boxes of popcorn to staff in hospital intensive care units, operating rooms and emergency departments that have been involved in a transplant in some way. Carroll and her sons, Riley and Samuel, have participated in the past.
This year because of the coronavirus pandemic, deliveries happened directly or popcorn was dropped off by BC Transplant staff members.
Popcorn was delivered this year to seven hospitals on Vancouver Island, including Tofino General Hospital. Others were North Island Hospital Campbell River and District; North Island Hospital Comox Valley; Cowichan District Hospital; Nanaimo Regional General Hospital; Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospital.
Allison Sears was an optician living on Gabriola Island when she suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage on Dec. 24, 2015.
Carroll, her brother and father all knew Allison was registered as an organ donor, so when the time came, the decision to donate her organs was easy. Three people received life-saving organ transplants, and one person received Sears’ corneas.
“So much of what made those raw early days after my mom died easier was holding those three families in my hearts,” Carroll said.
“It’s Christmas and everything is so horrible, but imagine someone else is going to get that call on Christmas Day,” she said was the thought running through her mind.
“My mother was selfless in life and death,” she said. “Losing my mother broke my heart but I have found so much happiness and a sense of peace as a result of her being an organ donor. Her generous gifts mean other families are still sharing beautiful moments here on earth.”
The coronavirus pandemic may have altered Operation Popcorn this year, but the need for organ donors has not decreased. There are currently 750 people in B.C. waiting for transplants.
There is one message Carroll said people always miss when she tells her story. “People are under the misconception that (doctors) don’t work hard to save your life if you’re an organ donor. It’s so not true. Your life matters just as much and they’re still working hard.
“With my mom, she almost had no brain activity. We couldn’t have done anything differently for her.”
When the family brought up the fact Allison had signed an organ donor card, “a completely different team stepped in.
“They took such good care of us, and they took such good care of my mom too.”
Carroll said it has been enough years now that she would like to meet the people who received organs from her mother, if they are willing. Rules have changed in British Columbia in the past few years to allow recipients and donor families to meet.
“From what I’ve been told, everyone is doing amazing. I try to make peace to know they’re out there in the world and that would be enough. But we don’t get over losing our parents.”
To learn more about organ donation and to register to be an organ donor, go online to www.transplant.bc.ca.
Island HealthPORT ALBERNIVancouver Island Health Authority