The parents of a young mum whose life was cut tragically short say organ donation has helped cast a positive light on a dark period of their lives. Hori and Lovey Ahomiro are now urging people to have the organ donation conversation with their whānau and decide if it’s right for them.
Ngawari Charlene Ahomiro was a fit and healthy mother-of-two when, aged just 29, she was struck down by a brain aneurysm.
“She was athletic,” says Nga’s mum Lovey. “She would run up the Mount like it was just a trot up a hill. She played all the sports, had just started rugby and was loving it.”
Two years ago though, Nga suffered the brain aneurysm that would end her life.
“She was rushed to the hospital but she was already gone,” says Lovey. “She went quickly.”
It was then that the importance of a recent conversation revealed itself.
“One of our whānau members had needed a liver,” says Nga’s dad Hori. “The family had all seen if they were compatible but they weren’t and eventually he received the organ from Canberra. But it had got us talking about organ donation; Nga, ourselves and our four other children. We had the conversation and Nga said she would like to be a donor. That opened the door really.”
That conversation meant when the time came to decide on whether to donate Nga’s organs, “it wasn’t a difficult conversation”, says Lovey, who is talking after the recent Organ Donation New Zealand Thank You Day 2018 (a day of appreciation of organ and tissue donors and their families).
“The consultant spoke with Hori and I first. We agreed, as she’d said she wanted to be a donor, but we needed to ask Nga’s siblings as well. They were all in agreeance.”
However, not everyone in the Ahomiro whānau was as accepting.
“My father hit the roof,” says Lovey. “He was from that tikanga traditional background and his belief was what you come into the world with, you go out with.
“We tried to explain to him that she was just a shell at this time and it was her wairua that we wanted to keep alive. He was not happy but fortunately my mum had a long talk with him that night and brought him round. He came back into the hospital the next morning and I just hugged him.”
The family is grateful for the time and space they were given by Tauranga Hospital staff to make their decision.
“The support we had in the hospital at the time was amazing and very respectful,” says Hori. “There was no rush, no pressure, we had the time and the space to think about our decision. It was very compassionate care.”
Hori and Lovey later learned that four people’s lives had changed forever because of Nga’s decision to donate.
“I think the one which really got me was that a part of her liver helped a young boy,” says Lovey. “That mum got her baby back and that’s wonderful. You can imagine she would’ve been on the brink, hoping and praying for something to help her boy. That was a really big positive for me.”
Knowing Nga helped others live has softened the blow somewhat because it means her passing was not in vain adds Lovey.
“It was a big ask for us traditionally we went right against the grain as far as that was concerned,” she says. “But we made that decision and we’re comfortable with it. There was some negative feedback at the time but there’s been a lot more positive since. During Nga’s short stay in hospital so many people that visited, or were touched by her story, changed their minds about organ donation. It made a lot of people have second thoughts, especially our Māori people.
“At the end of the day that’s all you can ask, that people have an honest conversation about it, consider it, talk it through. Organ donation may or may not be right for you in your situation, but at least talk about it.”
The Tauranga couple are clear in their views.
“Organ donation means others get a second chance at life. And there’s no greater gift than that,” says Hori.