Organ donation - dealing with the sudden loss of my younger sister

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My best friend

My younger sister, Chloe, was a loving, outgoing, funny and adventurous 15 year old. She loved telling stories and entertaining everyone and her laugh was infectious. She gave the best cuddles and I loved chatting to her and hearing her take on life. I felt I could talk to her about everything and anything, she was wise beyond her years and I’m not the only one who would call her my best friend.

Her hobbies included reading the Harry Potter books at least 20x each, riding her horse, kicking arse at netball and playing different characters at drama class. She was very social with a large, close-knit group of girl friends who still join us every year on her birthday. She loved to cook and dreamed of opening her own café one day. She also always said she was going to be an anesthetist when she grew up because they made a lot of money!

The car accident

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Eleven years ago on 8 September 2007 (two weeks before her 16th birthday), Chloe was at a friend’s birthday party at Strawberry Fare, a restaurant in Christchurch city. They had a fun evening with lots of laughter and afterwards took a bus back to Lincoln where they then needed to drive only 3 kilometres to the birthday girl’s house for a sleepover. As they couldn’t all fit in the one car, Chloe’s friend Emma said she would take three of them in her car. 

For some unknown reason, on a straight road half way to their destination, the car they were driving went into a sideways skid and hit a power pole.

At 10:30pm Mum and Dad had a knock on their door and opened it to find two policemen standing there. They were told that Chloe had been in a car accident with three other girls. One of the girls had been killed instantly, another was in surgery and Chloe was in a coma in intensive care with head injuries. The police took Mum and Dad into hospital, picking me up on the way. We were all in complete shock.

I remember walking into the intensive care unit and seeing Chloe lying there on the bed, apart from a small wound on her cheek and another on her shoulder she looked normal, like she would wake up at any moment. 

We were told that they would not know the extent of her head injuries until the swelling had gone down. It would take around two weeks before they could do an MRI scan to find out more. I was under the impression that it was just going to be a waiting game to find out the extent of her head injury, it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t survive. 

The doctors told us that Chloe’s friend Emma, the one that was driving, did not make it through surgery and I couldn’t believe that one accident could take the lives of two young girls, let alone three. I was preparing myself to move back home and nurse Chloe back to health. I wanted to quit university and become her caregiver, helping her walk, talk and learn everything again if need be. I didn’t care just as long as she was alive.

Sudden loss

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The next day at around 5:30pm we had just gone downstairs to the hospital café leaving my older sister Anneke with Chloe. We got a panicked phone call from Anneke saying to get back up to Chloe quickly as the machines hooked up to her had started beeping like crazy. 

When we were all together the doctor came in and explained to us that Chloe was brain dead. This is something that you are never prepared to hear and it hit us like a ton of bricks. It was so hard to get your head around the fact that even though she was lying there breathing and warm to touch she was still gone from us.

Organ donation

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It was around this point that we were first approached about Chloe being an organ donor. For Mum this was an extremely hard decision to make. She had to first get her head around the fact that her youngest daughter, her baby, would never talk to her again, laugh with her, hug her or kiss her goodbye and then she had to think about someone cutting out and taking away parts of her.

I felt very strongly that she should donate her organs as then losing her would at least have some benefit for someone else. I knew that if it was the other way around and Chloe was in the position of needing a donor to live then it should be an easy decision to make for someone else. 

I kept reminding Mum that Chloe wanted to be an organ donor. Two weeks prior to the accident, Chloe was with Mum making the booking for her restricted driving test. Mum was completing the form on Chloe’s behalf. One of the questions was whether she wanted to be an organ donor or not. Mum ticked no and when Chloe saw she made her change it to yes. I felt like that it was important to follow Chloe’s wishes.

When we agreed that Chloe would be an organ donor, she had to go through a series tests to confirm that she was 100% brain dead and therefore a suitable donor. We asked to be in the room while they performed these tests and it helped me to realise that she was no longer in her body. I think this made it easier to accept that she was to be a donor. They opened her eyes to shine a torch in them and as soon as I saw them I knew there was no life left in them. I felt that her soul had already left her body.

As a family we are glad that we made the decision for Chloe to be an organ donor and grateful that we had that opportunity to save others’ lives even though we lost a huge part of ours. We can now look back and see that although we lost a part of our family, there are now other families out there who will be able to keep their loved ones because of Chloe.

Life without her

There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss Chloe. More than anything in the world I wish she was still here with us today and I could see the woman that she would have grown up to become. I miss her laugh, her cuddles, her stories and just being around her. I am always reminded of her and I consider myself lucky to have known her so well. I’m very proud that I can call her my sister.

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