Courtney's Quest: Giving life after death

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Courtney's Quest

She looked perfect, just as she always did to her mum.

A tiny scratch on her head - the only sign that something was amiss.

She cuddled her Pooh Bear, her favourite, and slept peacefully as the machines kept her alive.

Only hours before, a sunny day at Lake Eppalock beckoned.

A boat trip with a friend. Something Courtney Keast, 12, had done several times before.

Now, her mum Jodie held her limp hand and was asked whether her young daughter wanted to become an organ donor.

Soon after, Courtney saved four lives.

Her liver, lungs, pancreas and kidneys gave two other young girls, a young boy and a grandmother a second chance. 

"We'd had the conversation just two days before,” Jodie said.

"I thought I was having the conversation in case something happened to me.

"You never imagine your children being there, but all of a sudden I was in a hospital room being asked about organ donation for my daughter. 

"She'd been through so much and after they told me she was going to die, I don’t know if I could have done it ... I don't know if those lives would have been saved."

Courtney is part of a growing number of organ donors, with 110 Victorian donors helping 286 recipients last year.

There were 167 kidneys, 57 livers, 47 lungs and 17 hearts donated. 

Yet 1532 Australians await a life-saving transplant.

“It’s not a conversation you want to have but you have to,” Jodie said.

“Otherwise you’ll never know and your family member might not have the chance to give. I still can’t comprehend that someone who had so much potential and who enjoyed life so much is gone.

“But I am so proud of her for her decision, I'm proud of everything she did."

For Jodie and Courtney's younger sister Maddie, there's now one less lunchbox to pack, one less load of washing - the empty bed left just as it was, before everything changed.

There's the memories of Courtney ballet dancing in competitions, and dancing in the lounge room with the cheekiest of moves. 

The image of Courtney walking out of their lives for the last time, laughing - like she always did - as she left for a sleepover at a friend's house. 

But Jodie wakes knowing her daughter's death was not in vain.

"I walk down the road with an empty hand now but you hold onto the positives, you have to," she said.

“Knowing she was an organ donor has given me something to focus on now that everything is wrong.”

Every day, Jodie remembers something else that is lost – a new song that Courtney will never dance to, a movie she will never see, a school year she will never enjoy, a future gone.

“There are so many times when I realise we won’t be able to do this, or that – I see something and realise Courtney won’t be able to experience that,” she said.

“That I’ll never do that for her again, that I’ll never do anything for her again."

She just hopes the people Courtney helped appreciate their life as much as she did. 

"She'd even been excited about the new socks I'd bought her just before she died," Jodie said. 

"My girl appreciated everything. She loved every day, even though she didn't have nearly enough.

“Four people have been given a new chance because of her and I hope they do the same.”

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