As a nurse, the first time I scrubbed in to assist the surgeons during an organ transplant, it felt weird. Here was a patient undergoing a sterile surgical procedure in the controlled environment of the operating room. But bodily functions were maintained artificially and the patient's brain was dead, so he felt no pain. Once his donated organs were removed, the incision was closed, all the tubes were disconnected, and his physical body was treated with respect and sent in proper fashion to the morgue.

So many people imagine the act of organ donation to be a morbid and gruesome act. Perhaps the movies and a lack of proper information turn people away from being potential organ donors.

Once we die, our body parts are useless. They no longer perform their miraculous jobs. We each need to ask ourselves what we want to do with our organs if they can be used to save another person's life. We need to make our next of kin aware of our wishes while we are healthy and able to make important end-of-life decisions.

These questions also will be asked of our loved ones in the hospital setting. Even when there is a donor card, consent is usually obtained from the family or designated agent of the potential donor. A coordinator is in place to manage the organ request, not the patient's physician. One donor has the potential for saving eight different lives. There are no costs involved to the donor, and more than 100,000 people remain on waiting lists for organ transplants every day.

Making this decision now in a reasonable and stress-free time frame, instead of when emotions are running high and death is imminent, makes perfect sense. Knowledge is the key. Having the ability to change someone's life in such a unique way speaks volumes.

Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old girl who recently underwent a double lung transplant, has inspired me to write this.

If you or someone you know has struggled with each and every breath, the physical and emotional toll is unbearable. Children have the resilience to heal and prosper. They have a clean slate and a lifetime of hopes and dreams ahead of them. As a parent, I cannot imagine watching my child suffer like Sarah. She, along with many other organ recipients, will be forever grateful and thank the hero who gave them the gift of life.

JOAN MAHON

Villas