Jacqueline and Thomas Tisher remember their daughter as being an incredibly loving and joyful person.
“She had such a vibrant laugh,” Jacqueline says. “Her gift was in connecting with people – she could intuitively read someone’s mood and connect with them in a profound and meaningful way.”
In 2011, Acacia died in hospital a week after having surgery on her spine. The surgery went well, but complications arose while she was recovering. After a test was performed to measure blood flow in her brain, she was declared brain dead.
“The organ donation discussion started after we confirmed there was brain death,” Thomas says. “There was no hesitation at all. From my perspective, Acacia would have wanted to donate because she loved people, because there were people who needed help, and now she had a way to help them.”
Jacqueline is also grateful for being asked.
“I was so thankful they brought it up,” she says of Acacia’s healthcare team, “because even as an intensive care nurse, I would have forgotten. In that moment, I was the mom and not thinking about organ donation. I would have forgotten until days later when it was too late.”
“To get to be that person who asks, I think it’s a gift,” Jacqueline adds. “It’s a great opportunity and should be perceived that way.”
Both Jacqueline and Thomas say they were impressed with Acacia’s transplant team – everyone they met throughout the donation process was kind, compassionate and patient, taking the time to explain the process to them and to make sure their questions were answered.
“It took time,” Thomas says. “But we didn’t mind. It gave us another couple of days to be with her and bring closure.”
Six of Acacia’s organs – her heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys – were successfully donated to five people.
“That’s a proud thing to be able to say, that our daughter, in the midst of this tragedy, was able to help these people,” her parents say. “It kept part of her alive even though she was gone.”
The only organ Acacia donated that was unsuccessful was her pancreas.
“It’s awesome to hear success, but it’s okay to hear that something failed,” Jacqueline says. “At least we tried, and at least the recipient had an opportunity and was given hope.”
Since donating Acacia’s organs, the couple has had the opportunity to share their daughter’s life story with her transplant recipients through letters delivered by the transplant team, and they have received anonymous letters from the recipients updating them on their health post-transplant.
“I imagine their lives now, carrying around Acacia, and they probably laugh a lot harder – they probably love a lot deeper, because of having a piece of her. I like to imagine that,” Jacqueline says, smiling.