The gift of life - Gabby's Story
My eldest daughter Gabrielle passed away suddenly in 2017. At this very difficult time, we, as a family decided that donating Gabby’s organs was the best outcome we could hope to come from such a tragedy.
It is my pleasure, and with absolute pride, that I share a little about our darling daughter and sister, Gabby.
Gabby was born in early 1997. She was the first grandchild on her dad, Shayne’s side of the family and in my family, she was grandchild number nine. She was a bright, delightful, adorable and healthy baby.
In quick succession, Jacob and Victoria were born. Our family was complete. It would be fair to say, Gabby was the ringleader of the children; she had a very strong will, an excitable nature and loved to plan adventures.
We shared many wonderful family holidays at Snells Beach and Whangamata. Beautiful memories were created. Life couldn’t get much better; we were truly blessed to have shared so much fun, love and quality time together. Gabby loved her family and friends, enjoying nothing more than to go out with her friends or spend time with family.
Gabby thrived throughout her school years. She involved herself in many activities including gymnastics, netball and tennis, cross country, cheer leading and Indian dancing.
Gabby attended Mt Albert Grammar School for her secondary school education. She was extremely proud to be a member of her school community and again, made the most of the opportunities on offer to her. She played hockey, netball, and underwater hockey and true to her giving nature she became involved in various student support roles. In her last year of school, her leadership qualities were recognised and she was appointed a Prefect and the captain of the senior underwater hockey team.
It was at high school that she met Bradley, who was to become the love of her life and was also dearly loved by our family.
In 2014, during Gabby’s last year at school, Shayne, Gabby’s dad, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. She was very close to her dad and they were very alike. Both with a very ambitious streak, they also shared the same mischievous personality. She, along with Jacob and Victoria, helped me nurse their dad at home. I will never forget Gabby’s kindness, she had a beautiful heart. Sadly, Shayne passed away in October 2015. Throughout this difficult time, Gabby continued to shine, showing great resilience.
Gabby’s love for figures lead to her enrolling in a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Auckland University, but, in typical Gabby style, she wanted to challenge herself, choosing to study law as well. When it came to hard work, Gabby knew what she had to do to achieve her goals. She was highly motivated and extremely organised.
She worked very hard and was successful in gaining a place at the Auckland Law School. I was so very proud of her. In the face of adversity, she had shown extreme resilience and continued to strive for excellence to achieve her goals. This was also a sad time for Gabby as she really wanted to share her great news that she had been accepted into law school with her dad. He would have been so proud of her. She excelled at University, involving herself as a student leader and being appointed as secretary of the Beta Alpha Psi club, membership of which is achieved through academic excellence. She was successful in gaining an internship placement at Deloittes for the summer of 2017 and was accepted into the Auckland University 2017 women’s mentoring programme. She sadly passed away before taking up these opportunities. I am sad to be missing out on what would have been, without doubt, a very successful and exciting career.
I believe Gabby had a profound impact on many people during her short life. You couldn’t help but be drawn in by her friendly smile and her enthusiastic chitter chatter. I can’t express how much I loved her. She was passionate, fun loving, kind, unique, smart, driven, an old soul with a beautiful heart. She smiled easily and often. I love hearing her name spoken, it may bring a few tears, but it also keeps her memory alive and I’ll never let the opportunity pass to share Gabby’s story.
The Saturday in 2017, started like any other day. Gabby had a busy day planned, starting off with us having a morning walk together and then to the shops for some retail therapy. The last stop before we came home was at the University so she could buy her text books in preparation for the start of her academic year and then it was off to watch Bradley play softball. Her girlfriends joined her for the evening to celebrate her upcoming 20th birthday.
Our darling Gabby’s life was tragically cut short that evening. While celebrating with her friends, she developed a sudden headache and collapsed. She was taken to hospital and she never regained consciousness. Shortly after arriving, we were told that Gabby had suffered a catastrophic brain bleed and may not survive this event. Our world was once again in turmoil. How could this be happening to our beautiful, bubbly Gabby? This was an unimaginably traumatic time; many details of that evening are still a blur to me.
Gabby was taken to the critical care ward and over the course of the evening family members gathered together for support as we tried to make sense of the nightmare we were facing.
At this time, organ donation was the furthest thought from our minds. The idea came up for discussion and consideration when Jacob saw a poster on the wall in the hospital ward. We all knew Gabby had chosen to be an organ donor as it was reflected on her driver licence and expressed in an essay on organ donation she did while at school. She also reminded Jacob when he was applying for his licence not to forget to tick the organ donor box on his application. It never crossed our minds that one day we would have to make this decision about donating her organs.
Offering Gabby’s organs for donation was not a difficult decision to make. She was selfless, considerate and generous and we knew this was what Gabby would have wanted. She was a healthy, clean living teenager who cared for her body. The reality of our situation was that her beautiful healthy organs were of no use to her, but they were a lifeline and a gift of life to numerous others.
While Gabby was on life support, we spent the next two days and nights by Gabby’s side, talking to her, holding her, laying close to her. I wanted time to stand still. I wanted Gabby to stay here with us forever, as life should be, but I knew in my heart the time to say goodbye to our darling was very close. On the morning of her 20th birthday, we said goodbye to our Gabby.
During this time, I remember the utter devastation that we were feeling, but also thought about the elation a recipient and their family would be feeling when they received the news that an organ was available for them. I remember thinking that some good had come from our tragedy.
Gabby’s organ donation story was shared in the press and on television. Jacob and Victoria were very proud of their sister and of her last gift to others. They wanted to highlight to the public the importance of your family knowing your wishes about organ donation and to encourage families to have this discussion.
It is heart-warming and comforting for us to know that Gabby lives on in some form. The organ donation process has been a positive experience for us.
I’ll never forget the light and laughter that surrounded Gabby in life. Whatever I do, wherever I go in the years to come, Gabby’s glow will always be in my heart.
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