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Donor Stories

Kimberly Noelle Canterbury, The Girl Who Helped Others

My sister, Kim, was an optimistic and artistic 17-year old. She was a member of National Honors Society, German Club and Art Club. She loved to skateboard, to dress-up for Halloween and to help others—especially younger kids. She even chose to be a vegetarian due to her love of animals. She exuded life.

On March 20, 1995 my life changed forever. Kim, a new driver and only weeks away from graduation, was involved in a multi-car vehicle accident involving a drywall truck. I remember that afternoon because it was raining so heavily the lights flickered at home, and the sound of sirens could be heard in the distance. I learned later that evening those sirens responded to my sister’s accident.

When I arrived at the hospital to check on my sister, I saw my family strewn about. The looks on their faces told me the story without having to speak any words. My mom took me by the arm and led me into Kim’s room. I remember looking at my sister with her fair skin and dark hair thinking she looked like a broken, porcelain doll. I recall a lot of crying, praying and feeling like I couldn’t think. After crying for what seemed like forever, my family was led into a sterile-feeling conference room with dim lights.

Someone was saying that Kim was brain dead. I couldn’t believe it. It was our family’s worst nightmare. A lady’s voice asked if she was an organ donor. My dad said he didn’t think so. She told us Kim could leave a great legacy and asked our family for consent for donation. My father took a family vote, and many of us supported it. We knew Kim’s gentle way meant she would want to help others, even in her death.

I stayed at the hospital for a long time saying my goodbyes to Kim, and thanking her for being a good person and a nice little sister. When I left, my mom was the only one there. She stayed by Kim’s side until the organ recovery team took her to surgery just before midnight. My mom told Kim that they would see each other again someday and kissed her on the forehead one last time.

The days that followed were hard.  Days turned into weeks, then years of missed holidays and birthdays. There was always someone missing, and those events never were the same as when Kim was alive and celebrating with us. But, during these times I thought of others. I thought of all the families that were able to mark special occasions, because of Kim’s compassion and her gifts through organ donation. What a special gift to give a complete stranger– the gift of life.

Throughout the years my family has received letters from her recipients and their families. One man, an author, received one of Kim’s kidneys. It was his second kidney transplant, and he had been on dialysis for years. After he received Kim’s kidney he was able to come off of dialysis and return to a normal life. His family has sent many letters and cards to my mom, thanking her for his new lease on life. The support that we have received from my sister’s organ recipients has been so important during the healing process.

My mom, my sister Krista and I all have tattoos in Kim’s memory. I have her initials on my left wrist along with three stars representing us, the three sisters, inked in our favorite colors from childhood. Kim’s star is green and is illustrated falling from our sisterly cluster.

In closing, I want to thank her recipients for caring enough to reach out to my family. I will forever hold their memories high in my mind right next to the memories of my wonderfully loving sister, Kim.

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