Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Vital Bonds - The Nature of Things

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. - Corrie Ten Boom

Profound words coming from someone who survived a Nazi concentration camp.  Memories have a profound impact on how we look at the world and who we become.  Our lives changed on October 2, 2008.  What took place over those 6 months is difficult to explain.  Last Thursday, we came as close as we ever will to reliving our transplant journey.

CBC, through it's longstanding program The Nature of Things was given unprecedented access to the University of Alberta Hospitals including the Stollery Children's Hospital and the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.  Territory we know very well.  The program chronicles the organ transplant experience.  It follows several patients, both the donors and recipients through portions of their transplant journeys.  The openness in which this is presented is quite astounding.  All of those who participated in this documentary, put themselves out into the public at their most difficult times.  The openness is quite remarkable.  I have placed a link to the program below where it can be seen in its entirety.

How Real Was It?

First off, the amount of insider knowledge we had of this programming was stunning.  Several of our Doctors were featured in the documentary including Russell's cardiac surgeon, and Russell's transplant cardiologist.  In addition, we recognised many locations in the hospital.  We recognised a lot of the subtle details.  The fish tank outside of PICU - the NICU - familiar signs - the rooms in which the family conferences were held.  It was so familiar.  Some happy memories that collided with some of our most awful recollections.  Seeing an infant laying on the operating room table, was particularly difficult to watch as I remember that like it was yesterday.  It was like we had rewound the clock 8 years and were back in the Stollery.  It was that vivid.

It was also amazing to see an infant child featured.  To have this strike even closer to home this was a family from Manitoba, just like us, who had left one child at home to take their other child 1400 kms away in hopes of saving their life.  It would not be surprising that we could see this family at one of our transplant clinics here in Winnipeg.

Tough to Watch?

An unequivocal....YES!  It was very difficult to watch but very worthwhile.  It was particularly fascinating to see a family go through the donation process.  A side of the equation that we are not familiar with but what we always speculate and wonder about.  I am very impressed by these people who chose to go through the process of donating organs.  After all, if there is something to be learned in this documentary is the life and death nature of the organ donation process and the euphoric highs and devastating lows that are involved for both donor and recipient.  A roller coaster ride of emotions that we were fortunate enough to be the beneficiary.

What was Missing?

It is clear that the producers of this program focused exclusively on the moment of donation and the moment the organ is received.  I think they did an admirable job and packed an hour long program with as much as they could.

The issue we (Susan and I) keep coming back to is that there is a compelling story leading up to the need for a transplant and then a lifetime of effects to deal with after receiving the donated organ.  All of those who fall ill and require a transplant will undoubtedly go through some very tenuous circumstance to get to that point.  The organ recipients are the sickest of the sick and endure numerous treatments and interventions prior to ever being considered and listed for the transplant.  The transplant process is completely out of their control as they have no way to determine when that "elusive" call may come with an offer of the donated organ.  The physical and emotional impacts are profound and will be felt for years to come.  In our case, our transplant saved Russell's life.  It also changed us as parents.  We are not the same people we were before.  Russell also has to live with all of the rigours that come with maintaining a transplanted organ plus he also has to live with the effects of the heroic efforts that were performed just to get him to the point where he could receive his transplanted heart.  Many of these realities he is just learning about as he is just a young boy just learning about his embattled infancy.

Yes...transplant changes people and those who care for them.  Perhaps, the subject of another documentary.

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