Clifford Tuhi Thompson was a loving and giving person. He enjoyed doing things for other people and his love for his mother Victoria was unconditional. He always wanted to help others, especially children, and it's for this reason that Victoria said yes to organ donation after Clifford tragically sustained a non-survivable brain injury in 2012.
Clifford was 36 when he was involved in a bicycle accident. He was taken to Middlemore Hospital where he was ventilated and admitted to the intensive care unit where sadly he died.
Victoria said organ donation was raised with the family after they decided Clifford would be cremated. "I said to the family Clifford would be cremated and then we can take his ashes back home to Hawke's Bay. It was very important to me that this happened. After we had discussed cremation, the intensivist came in. When he asked if we would consider organ donation, there was no doubt in my mind. It would be terrible if his perfectly good organs were not used to help the lives of other people."
"We discussed organ donation as a family and it was agreed."
Even though Victoria knew that Clifford was brain dead, she said the hardest part of the process was saying goodbye to her son. "When it was time for goodbyes I wanted to scream and say they weren't having his body, but I knew I couldn't because there was no point, he was dead."
After the decision had been made to donate Clifford's organs, Victoria's nephew phoned her niece who was with Victoria in the ICU. He was upset with the decision to cremate and instead organised for Clifford to be taken back to the Marae in Hawke's Bay and buried. This did not change Victoria's mind about the organ donation and the family were again in agreement.
"We had Clifford at home (the Marae) for one night and the wharenui was full of people telling stories about him. Everyone was laughing. An older woman stood up and said 'I think we should give Clifford a standing ovation because of the gift of organs he has given to help others'," explained Victoria. "I know he would have been so pleased when they gave him a standing ovation."
She said in this poignant action, there was a lessening of the reservations surrounding organ donation. There wasn't the aversion in the room as there sometimes can be in Maori culture. And this is why Victoria wants to tell her story - she wants to help raise awareness of organ donation, particularly within her own culture. "It is about promoting it to our people."
"I believe that we may have finished with our body, but our spirit still lives on and organ donation doesn't prevent this."
Victoria was thrilled to hear that Clifford's heart had gone to a young man and part of his liver went to a young girl. "He would have just been so pleased."
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