Today I’m going to share with you probably one of my most personal stories. But please read to the end, because there is a very important message.
High school and year 12 is certainly one of those years that has its highs and lows. But for myself, my friends, and my entire year level, we had no idea how extreme this could be.
Early in my VCE, two friends and myself had birthdays all within a few weeks of each other, so we decided to share one big birthday night. We planned everything. The invites, the food, the music. We wanted everything to be perfect. And for the night it was. We had a few to many drinks, we sang and danced and acted like any other teenagers would. But the one thing from the night I remember was running into the house to get my camera, because my friend’s parent said we needed photos of the night. So I ran person to person, group to group, taking photos of as many people as I could (but none of me, I hated photos, and ‘selfies’ weren’t even thought of then :P). One of those photos was the most important of them all.
We woke up the next morning after a few of us camped out in the lounge room. We began eating random leftovers and everything seemed great. Then everything went wrong. My friend, Courtney (who was one of the two who I was sharing the party with), began to have an asthma attack. We were lucky to have many forms of ventolin on hand, but sadly none of them were of any help to her. My other friend’s father then rushed her to the nearest doctor’s surgery. I’ve never felt more anxiety in my life. The waiting and waiting was only (lightly) reduced by being with other people who were sharing the anxiety. After we had found out she had been rushed to hospital, my friend and myself were taken to go see her. I remember everything. Picking up flowers, going to buy a card. And even what we wrote on that card on the hood of the car before we walked in; ‘please don’t ever scare us like that again!’ But I had no idea what I was walking in to. Seeing her on a respirator and so helpless broke my heart. But the nurse had pierced her belly button, as was her birthday wish (prior, she’d even created an elaborate plan, so her mum could not say no to her getting it done) and as the person who was to get it done with her, I still wear mine even today.
That next week was a blur of tears, hospital visits and very, very sad moments. I remember being taken to the school counsellor’s office only to be told our next visit would be to say goodbye. That was the moment I never thought I would hear. That was the moment my world fell apart. This was also the moment I realised that my friends are some of the most inspiring and strong people that I know, and I love them for it. Now I took one photo of Courtney that night, and it was the last one we ever got the chance to take. It is also the reason I take a ridiculous amount of photos now. You never know when it will be the last.
Her funeral was beautiful, and some amazing words were said. And I really hope she knows how much we love her and how much we still miss her. But her mum did one of the most incredible things someone could do. She donated Courtney’s organs.
The 21st of February would have been Courtney’s 25th birthday, and March 1 is the 8 year anniversary of her passing. And the 23rd of February to the 2nd of March is DonateLife Week. To me, giving your organs up is one of the most selfless things you can do, and as my best friend recently said, it is something you do without ever being able to be repaid. I implore you all to register yourself on the Australian Donor Register . But also tell your loved ones. They will be the ones who will speak for you when you’re gone. So make sure they know your choice. You never know who (and how many) you will save with your choice.
While I strive to write about not just beauty, this is a really personal story. And as used to telling this story as I am, it was still a really difficult one to put in words. But I feel as a blogger I have the opportunity to raise awareness about this topic. And knowing one person has added their name to the register, or told a loved one how they feel, then this post is worth it. I could have told you all just to go and sign up. But this blog is a snapshot of my life, and Courtney was a very big part of my life, and she still influences me every day.
If you want to know more about DonateLife, and why organ and tissue donation is vitally important, please visit their website.