Guiding families to leave a lasting legacy

Sr Lee-Ann Booysen, a donor coordinator at Vitanova helps families decide on tissue donation.  In celebration of National Women’s Month, we spent time with Lee-Ann to learn more about her and her work.

What does your work entail?

I work closely with various networks to get referrals for tissue donations, such as forensic pathology services, hospitals, funeral homes and undertakers. I also educate the public on organ and tissue donation to increase awareness. Most importantly, I make contact with the next of kin once a loved one has passed away and explain the process of tissue donation in a way they understand. If the family agrees to tissue donation, they then need to complete a consent form. I then guide them through the entire donation process and support them where and as best I can.

How did your career in tissue donation come about?

Quite by accident! I am a qualified nursing sister.  I completed my training through Mediclinic and was working in a hospital when I saw a vacancy online one morning.  It sounded interesting and like a new challenge to pursue, so I applied. I did not think my application would be successful, since it was the first time, I had heard about tissue donation.  I had an interview which went very well and got the position.  It has been an amazing journey! It is truly a job that asks you to bring your head and your whole heart to every situation. You deal with people at their most vulnerable and you need to do so sensitively and kindly.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

The public is not educated enough on tissue donation. It can therefore be difficult to make the decision to donate because they hear about it for the first time during a trying time in their lives. When families are faced with death, they are emotional and it’s hard for them to process all the information. So I have to guide them and help them understand all the specifics if they agree to tissue donation.

It’s also hard to protect oneself against the pain and sadness the families have to go through – that emotion can affect one deeply. It is important to process the impact of that by talking it through with others. My team is wonderful – we support and lean on each other. We also have professional resources to help when the going gets a bit tough.
Emma and Sandra Venter, Awareness & Recovery Manager, Vitanova

What’s the most inspiring aspect of your job?

Sometimes the circumstances around a donor’s death may be tragic, but then the family will immediately agree to tissue donation. This reinforces my faith in humanity. It keeps me believing that there is good in everyone.

How do you relax or decompress outside of work to take care of yourself?

I relax by basically spending all my free time with my children. I have a foster daughter of eight years, a biological daughter of five, and my baby is three years old. The kids love Barbie movies, so we watch these together.

Emma and Sandra Venter, Awareness & Recovery Manager, Vitanova
They have quite the appetite, and I enjoy cooking healthy meals for them. We visit the park – they can be a real handful at restaurants.

I also love reading, although I don’t get a chance to read often. Other favourite things of mine include sitting and reflecting, nature, animals and beautiful architecture.

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

I’d like to see that people have more respect, kindness and love for each other.

Who is a woman that inspires you and why?

So many women inspire me: my colleagues, friends and women at my church. I look for attributes in them that I admire, and then I try to live those qualities in my own life.

Thank you for the important work you do at VItanova every day, Lee-Ann. Happy Women’s Day!

Lee-Ann spoke about her job on ‘Met ‘n Huppel in die Stap’ – click below to watch the interview.

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