A Lifechanging Decision
Madonna Arsenault remembers the moment when her father, Robert Arsenault, Sr., began to give serious consideration to a kidney transplant. It was at one of his medical appointments, after he was told that his kidney function had declined to 13 percent.
“I said to the doctor, ‘why can’t I give him one of my kidneys?’ The doctor put his hands up in the air and said, ‘why not?’”
Together, Madonna and Robert decided to move forward, a decision that gave Robert four more years to make memories with his family, including his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“The decision brought so much joy,” says Madonna. “It’s really hard to describe it, but it brought our family closer together. And even now, three years since Dad died, he’s part of every conversation when our family gets together.”
Madonna sometimes shares her experience as a living donor with families in her role as a volunteer Chaplain at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. As a valued member of the care team, her perspective is helpful for families who are facing decisions about organ donation.
“If they’re open to it, I tell them I’m an organ donor myself,” she says. “I’m able to share how it can make a difference in other people’s lives, even if my situation was different from what families of deceased donors face.”
While Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center does not perform transplants, the organization actively supports organ, tissue, and eye donation. Transplant teams throughout New England work with New England Donor Services to procure organs from suitable Medical Center patients, then transplant the organs at transplant centers. In 2020, 36 lives were saved by organ donors who gave the ultimate gift of life at the Medical Center, and more than 1000 lives were enhanced through tissue and cornea donation.
Madonna notes that becoming an organ donor is a lifechanging decision, and potential donors and their families should ask lots of questions to their provider team and consider talking to others who have donated.
“Explore the topic with the medical team,” she adds. “Learn all you can, and ask ‘what’s the process for me or my family member?’ You could be part of the solution for someone who doesn’t have to die.”
Each April, the Medical Center honors donors and their families, transplant recipients, and those who continue to wait during Donate Life Month. To become informed about living and deceased donation and decide if joining the organ donor registry is right for you, visit http://www.northernlighthealth.org/donatelife.