‘My daughter donated nine organs to help nine people live’

The Westmead Hospital staff who supported Maria Bolinas. (L-R) Intensive care unit registered nurses Nic Brown and Shuk Yan Ho, social worker Kaylene Tanti, registered nurse Gemmel Dino, clinical nurse educator Ann Duffey and registered nurse Stephanie Toovey.

In 2018, Maria Bolinas heard the words no mother ever wants to hear: “there is no activity in your daughter’s brain, she has died.”

It was moments after hearing this news that Maria found herself making a hugely important decision: how do I celebrate my daughter’s life?

Maria ultimately decided her successful, generous and kind-hearted daughter would donate nine organs.

Janna passed away at Westmead Hospital in 2018 after an episode of severe hypertension, causing significant bleeding in the brain. Janna was 32 years of age.

Rooty Hill mother Maria said her decision to donate Janna’s organs a day after Janna’s death was made easier thanks to a simple conversation.

“We had discussions about this when Janna was applying for her driver’s license,” Maria said.

Donation specialist nurse (left) Monica Walker supported Maria with the donation process. They are pictured here with social worker Kaylene Tanti and registered nurse Stephanie Toovey.

“There was a question about whether she wanted to be a donor and she ticked yes. At the time I said ‘why would you tick yes, you are born with your organs, you die with your organs’.

“Janna said ‘mum, why wouldn’t I let other people benefit?’

“That discussion was the biggest help in my decision about my daughter’s organ donation.”

Maria said her decision to donate Janna’s organs was also about how she would celebrate her daughter’s life with others. 

“I didn’t want my daughter’s life to end there. I had to figure out what I could do,” Maria said.

“That’s when I thought I want to donate her heart, because she has a good heart.

“After a discussion with the organ donation nurses about the process, we ended up donating nine organs the day after Janna died to help nine people live.

“Janna has had a huge impact on many families.”

Maria was supported by a number of Westmead Hospital staff in the care of her daughter and support during the donation process.

Maria said her daughter was a very generous person and the donation was reflective of her nature.

“Janna would walk an extra mile to make a person feel special, that’s how I know the decision to donate was the right one,” Maria said.

“She was a very generous person, intelligent and had a good career – she was a lawyer with two degrees.

“She lived her life but there was more to it and this was how we were able to achieve that.”

DonateLife Week is Sunday 28 July to Sunday 4 August. Australians are encouraged to register to be an organ and tissue donor, and to have a chat about it with their family and friends.

Your donation decision is no longer recorded on your NSW driver’s licence. It’s important to check your registration even if you ticked a box on your licence years ago.

For more information visit https://donatelife.gov.au/resources/donatelife-week.

If you’d like to register to become a donor, click here: https://donatelife.gov.au/DonateLifeWeek_WesternSydney