Just look at that huge smile and those beautiful eyes — Emily Morgan was a girl whose very presence lit up an entire room. If you had the wonderful privilege to know Emily, you can agree that her hearty laugh was her signature. It was big and it was loud and you loved it. You couldn’t help but join in, even if you didn’t know what she might be laughing about. Her personality sparkled like a rare diamond, and Emily attracted the admiration of anyone who walked along her path, even if only for a little while. Those who got to spend a lot of time with Emily delighted in her genuine sense of humour, her love of family, her fierce loyalty to her friends, and her desire to help others.
She had an incredible talent of planning things, and was given the most fitting title of “The Morganizer” by her best pal Stephanie. Emily cherished being surrounded by her friends and her family, and loved to just hang out and talk. Her teachers at every level beamed at the thought of having her in their class. School secretaries were her buddies. As a young teenager, Emily thought it was cool to be with her parents — how rare is that in this day and age?
Life can be so hard sometimes, and it certainly dealt Emily a cruel, cruel hand.
Emily, an energetic and creative and inspiring girl, was a treasure from the moment she was born. Because she was such an utter joy, we just knew we would have to have another baby. Lucy joined our lives in 1995, and our girls were the best of friends. We consider ourselves to be the luckiest of parents to have such genuinely wonderful children.
At the age of two, Emily began to have the first of what would turn out to be repeated bouts of pneumonia. Each time, she was tested for Cystic Fibrosis mainly just to rule out the possibility. Each time, the result was negative, so it couldn’t be CF — it had to be something else. But Emily’s coughing got worse. Her lungs seemed to suffer. A variety of tests were ordered in an attempt to find a solution, a reason. Some of the things the doctors were testing for seemed so strange, so obscure. But nothing seemed to provide a realistic answer. Finally, when she was 6 years old, another of countless CF sweat tests was taken, and this time, the results were quite clear: Emily did have Cystic Fibrosis. This is a hereditary disease. Emily was born with it! But for unexplained reasons, CF went undetected for several crucial years, causing untold damage to her precious lungs and digestive system. If you know about Cystic Fibrosis, you would know 6 years old is pretty late for diagnosis. Although treatments helped Emily at first, the damage done to her lungs in the early years of her life was evident. She weakened progressively until it was determined by her specialists that she would have to have a lung transplant. Take a moment and try to imagine hearing that news as a parent. While the idea of a transplant held great hope for Emily’s future, it also created an enormous and deep fear in our hearts. The seriousness of such an operation was overwhelming, but we knew it was our only choice.
On February 15, 2002, at the age of 10, the long-awaited call came. Emily was in the hospital in London at the time, and within hours she was being whisked away to Toronto to get her new lungs. The procedure took place the next day — February 16. Our lives took a huge turn, and our friends and family were incredible beyond belief in their support. The transplant team at the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital was phenomenal. The surgery was a success, and Emily had a second chance. And with the new lease on life given her, Emily captured the imagination of a community.
Each year, Emily planned the anniversary of this life-saving moment. This was her day to “morganize,” and she did it with zest. Each priceless year, she was joined by those who loved her, to share in an event that was nearly as momentous to us as the day Emily was born. We got to have 4 of these celebrations, unique only to transplant recipients — all of them as sweet and important as the one before.
Alas, there were not enough of them.
On November 4, 2006, before we could decide on how to celebrate Emily’s Fifth Transplant Anniversary, Emily’s extraordinary life came to an end.
It is said that there is nothing natural about children dying before their parents. People agree it is the hardest thing a parent can endure. It is just not the way things are supposed to go.
Life after that day has been a constant struggle for us.
Despite her health hardships, Emily’s big smile and vivacious personality always shone brightly. She inspired so many — those she knew personally, and those who only came to know her through her story, so caringly told in the pages of the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Emily symbolized the significance and success of organ donation, and she took on this role with pride and gusto. She always welcomed the opportunity to bring awareness to the importance of signing your donor card and discussing your intentions with your family.
Aptly described as “spunky” and “tenacious” by the press, Emily was an absolute pleasure and joy as a daughter, and a loyal protector and best pal as a sister.