Gift of life gives grieving family pride, future focus

Staff reporterGeraldton Guardian

A Geraldton mother grieving the loss of her youngest child has spoken of finding solace in her daughter’s wish to be an organ donor — knowing her final act was to give others the gift of life.

While sitting by the waters of Geraldton’s Donor Awareness Fountain last week, Pat Johnston reflected on the free spirit and big heart of her youngest daughter, Naiomi Harris.

Months earlier, the family were unaware how special the Marina Park fountain would one day become, with Naiomi’s name soon to be added to the list of those who have donated their organs to save others.

Described by many as a doting mother, passionate fitness instructor and a fierce friend, it came as a shock to the Geraldton community when Naiomi died last month at age 47.

Naiomi had been holidaying in Margaret River with husband Mark “Sharky” Harris and their children Jesse, Maggie and Lucy when she died in a tragic accident.

When Mr Harris, Mrs Johnston and her two other children, Natalie and Gus, were told that Naiomi would never regain consciousness, they had little doubt as to what had to happen.

“Naiomi had always said she would want to be an organ donor, so we all immediately said ‘yes’,” Natalie said.

“It was always dependent on what the children decided though.

“If one person had’ve said no, we wouldn’t have agreed, but I think everyone knew what she would have wanted.”

It was testimony to the life she lived that about 400 people attended the funeral at Utakarra Crematorium on January 19, from throughout WA and as far away as Melbourne and England.

It’s little surprise that Naiomi touched the lives of so many, having travelled the world, played on many sporting teams and being someone who prided herself on being a good person and a loving mother and wife.

Her mother said it therefore made sense that even in her death, Naiomi would leave a lasting mark on those around her.

“We think that she may have saved the life of at least four or five people by being an organ donor,” she said. “Somebody, somewhere, has got a very strong set of lungs, and a very strong heart.”

Natalie, beaming with pride at the memories of her sister, said she hoped one day to hear from the organ recipients, and maybe even to see a little bit of Naiomi again.

“I’ve been telling everyone how I’m really looking forward to it, and how I also can’t wait to have another drink with Naiomi’s liver,” she said with a laugh.

To join the Australian Organ Donor Register, visit donatelife. gov.au or find out more information by visiting .donatelife.gov.au/myths-and-misconceptions

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