When I was little, I went to ballet lessons. Because we were the youngest children there, the teacher usually had one of her older students help her out with our class. One of the helpers was a girl called Carla. She was so beautiful and kind, we all wanted to stand next to her, to show her our outfits, to be her friend. She was about five years older than us, but never made us feel like we weren’t cool enough to be her friends. I’m fairly sure most of the kids in my ballet class wanted to be Carla when we grew up.
Fast-forward a few years, and I had long since left ballet classes and lost touch with Carla – but I recognised her immediately when I saw her on the front of our local paper. She had collapsed in a local night club, and the bouncers had ended up having to perform CPR to save her life. She was 30 years old, and was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Just recently, I got back in touch with Carla through Facebook. She has been on the transplant list since 2013 and as I write this, she’s in Papworth hospital in Cambridge, on the “urgent” list waiting for a donor heart.
Even from her hospital bed, where I’m fairly sure she’s not having the most fantastic time, Carla is still positive and upbeat. She’s posting updates and photos, and doing her best to find a joke to counter any negative point. She’s been very clear that she’s being so open about sharing what’s going on in her life in order to raise awareness. Most of her updates have me in tears. It’s so rare to find someone so lacking in self-pity in normal life, let alone someone who’s bed ridden at the age of 38, waiting for a heart transplant operation miles from her home and her family.
Carla is just one of thousands of people of all ages waiting for an organ transplant. She spoke to the Daily Mail earlier this year about her experience.
It’s easy to think yes, I should probably put my name on the donor list. It’s easy to not quite get around to doing it. It’s even easier to forget to have that conversation with your family – the one where you tell them, if something happens to me, donate my organs.
If you’ve not got round to joining the donor register yet, you can do so here. Please, unless you have a specific objection to organ donation, please please please join the list. Please have that conversation.
Carla posted this poem on her Facebook the other day, and has allowed me to share it to help raise awareness.
Update: Carla got her Christmas wish! She underwent transplant surgery on 23rd December, and is currently in recovery. Everyone is so grateful to the donor family at what must have been the most terrible time for them, to have given the gift of life to someone else.