2016 Team Arkansas at the Transplant Games of America in Cleveland Ohio.
Tammy Sisemore, a donor mom and President of the Arkansas Donor Family Council is sharing her story and information with the ArkansasJournal.com to raise tissue, eye and organ donation awareness.
Did you and Robbie discuss organ donation before?
I know it is hard to believe but the conversation did come up when he was 14. We watched a tv show where parents were fighting over whether or not donate their child’s organs. I brought both my kids in and sat them down and asked how they felt about it. Robbie said specifically, ” If I don’t need them anymore, give them to someone who does.”
How does being a donor family member / mom help he grieving / healing process?
Being a “donor mom” gave me something to do with my loss. Sharing our experience about the process a donor family goes through all the way through to being there for new donor families meant that we did not go through this for nothing. There was something positive that came out of it. Even though Robbie’s gifts were wrapped in mourning for us, the gift of donation helped keep us focused on the bigger picture!
People, family and friends, may be afraid of discussing the loss of a child with you. Is there any words you’d like to give them?
One of the most painful things a grieving parent can face is when people try to act like their child did not exist for fear of bringing more pain. There is nothing more painful than losing a child. We never get over that. We need to know people REMEMBER.
The Transplant Games of America are a multi-sport festival event to help promote the need for Organ, Eye, and Tissue donation. The purpose is to show the world that transplantation is a treatment that does indeed work. The games started as a way to get the word out about the important need for organ and tissue donation and that is our goal today. Over the years it has grown into an event that brought transplant and donor families together. As a Donor Family you may not meet the person that has your loved ones organ, but you get a chance to see how your donation has changed someone else life. As a transplant recipient you get to show the world that having a transplant is a second chance at life. (TGA website)
What is the highlight for you, attending the games?
I did not comprehend how BIG and how close the transplant community was until I attended our first transplant games. At opening ceremony all of the donor families are brought into the arena as a group. When you have thousands of people crying, thanking you, reaching out to hug you because of the gift they have received, it puts it all in perspective. Just like Robbie was someone’s son, brother, cousin, friend, so is each recipient. The gift is not just for the individual who receives it. It has a lasting effect on everyone associated with the recipient. The games to me, is Robbie’s gifts walking, talking, crying, laughing….LIVING ON!
What services would you like to pass along to the readers about the Donor Council?
There is not another group like the Arkansas Donor Family Council. Our goal is to be there in any way we can to help donor families navigate their journey. We have financial, emotional and educational support for our families as well as work to raise awareness about donation.
How would someone join the council?
We have quarterly meetings that anyone can attend to find out more information. We also have a facebook page and website.
You have attended the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena CA and worked on the Donate Life Float. What does that entail and the impact for donor/donor families?
Everyone is familiar with the Tournament of Roses Parade. Robbie was featured as a floragraph in 2010 on the Donate Life Float at the parade and I have been back to work on decorating the float as well. It is another venue on a national stage where donor families can come together with recipients and share their stories as well as celebrate each other. A way to show the world donation and transplantation works and is beneficial for both sides.
Is there anything that you would tell a mother who is just lost their child?? Anything you would want them to know??
Gosh!!! There is so much but I think the most valuable thing I learned was it is ok to grieve. It is ok to have “moments” that are unbearable. It is ok to feel the loss and don’t let anyone else tell you any different. Find support from people who’ve been there because no one else REALLY understands.
For more information about organ donation visit: www.arora.org
For more information on local grief counseling, please contact your local counseling center, hospital or church.