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Have You Read These Top 5 Books About Organ Donation?

Written by Zoe Engels, Contributing Writer and Editor

Some of the best ways to learn more about organ, eye, and tissue donation are to watch a movie or read about it! We’ve curated a list with five of our favorite books about donation. Whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, get ready to learn, cry, smile, and laugh with the turn of each page. So, without further ado, here are five books you’ll want to add to your GoodReads list. 

In her memoir, Susan Angel Miller candidly and movingly shares her journey after Laura, her 14-year-old daughter, suddenly passed away from a previously undiagnosed, cancerous brain tumor. With encouragement from her Rabbi and daughters, Susan and her husband, Ron, chose to donate Laura’s organs. She previously told SODA, “We decided we wanted to do whatever we could to prevent another family from the grief we were experiencing. We hoped some good would emerge from our loss.” This decision, over a decade ago, saved Trish O’Neill’s life when she received Laura’s liver. In the face of immense pain and grief, and through the process of mourning, Susan shows us hope; she shows us that it is possible to navigate through this pain and through uncertainty. As a line from the synopsis tells us, “This book reveals the human ability to grieve, survive, and eventually thrive.”

Susan is an organ, eye, and tissue donation advocate. She is a SODA National Board Member and mom to our founder, Sara Royf. 

To learn more about Susan’s journey as an organ, eye, and tissue donation advocate and her advice to students looking to increase their advocacy efforts, check out our Spotlight on her.

Author Autumn Toelle-Jackson is no stranger to loss. Over the course of a few years, she had several miscarriages and lost a husband, a close cousin, and a child. Widowed at the age of 31, it wasn’t until weeks later that she realized she could have asked about the possibility of her husband being an organ and tissue donor. Later, when she and her second husband, Kyle, tragically lost their three-month-old daughter, Rylee Marie, they immediately considered organ donation, and Rylee’s heart, liver, and kidneys were donated. Autumn previously told SODA, “Our family was shattered when we found out Rylee was not going to make it. However, when we found out she would be able to donate, saving the lives of three others, we felt a lightening of our grief. … She died but her death brought life.”

With each experience of death and grief, Autumn had to find a way to survive the pain. In this memoir about loss, survival, and resilience, Autumn examines all the lessons and outcomes of her life’s journey. As a line from the synopsis tells us, what results is a “portrait of healing so complete, it transcends the traditional survivor narrative and enters new territory, a bold light shining where before was only darkness.”

Autumn is an organ, eye, and tissue donation advocate and SODA National Board Member.

Rylee Marie was honored with a floragraph, a floral portrait, at the 134th annual Rose Bowl Parade on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Read more about Autumn’s story and experience at the Rose Bowl Parade in this blog post

Eric Gregory chronicles his experiences with grief and organ, eye, and tissue donation after his son, Chris Gregory, suddenly collapsed and died of an aneurysm at just nineteen years old. Prior to his death, Chris had brought up organ donation with his parents during an after-dinner conversation about driver’s licenses. He’d told them he’d signed up to be an organ donor, jokingly adding, “Besides, who wouldn’t this body?” Chris’s decision to become an organ donor saved five lives. In this nonfiction book, Eric Gregory discusses the miracle of science and how his meetings with the recipients of his son’s organs helped in the family’s healing journey, creating an emotional salve unique to the life-saving power of organ donation.

One individual whose life was extended by twelve years thanks to Chris’s gift was Jorge Bacardi. He’d suffered from primary ciliary dyskinesia, a congenital disease that prevents mucus from clearing out of the lungs, sinuses, and middle ears. At 64 years old, Jorge was able to take his first full breath of air. Through the Contigo Foundation, Jorge’s wife, Leslie Bacardi, is a major supporter of SODA and the mission to increase and support organ, eye, and tissue donation advocacy and education efforts. 

The movie 2 Hearts is based on Eric Gregory’s book and this real-life story, detailing how two couples a world apart are connected through organ donation.

Check out our founder’s interview with Leslie Bacardi about the movie 2 Hearts here. When you’re done adding these books to your list, see what movies we recommend, including 2 Hearts in our list of the top five movies about organ donation.

At the age of nineteen, Eleanor Vincent’s daughter, Maya, mounted a horse bareback as a dare. After a horrid fall, she was left in a coma from which she would never wake up. As she struggled to come to terms with her daughter’s fate, Eleanor made the decision to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, she would have the chance to hear her daughter’s heartbeat in someone else’s chest—that of the heart recipient whose life Maya had saved. In this nonfiction book, Eleanor traces this story and her journey, through her grief, toward finding balance and rebuilding her life. Here, we see the power of organ donation and the transformative power of love. 

Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka 

If you’re looking for a fiction read, check out this young adult novel. In Shannon Takaoka’s debut book, seventeen-year-old Chloe collapses and learns that she needs a new heart. Eight months after her transplant, she has desires—like hopping on a surfboard and hitting the waves—and horrible memories—namely, crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel—that she never previously had. She begins to wonder if she has inherited more than just a heart from her donor. While fictional, this is an enlightening story about death and identity that touches on the life-saving power and bonding nature of organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Have you read any of these books? Are there any you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below! 

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