Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So I went to see Seven pounds at the weekend.

I haven’t blogged about it yet as I wanted to let it all settle first. I did actually wake up that night thinking about it. If you haven’t seen the film but want to, don’t read the rest of this post as it contains spoilers.

The premise is that the main character (Will Smith) wants to set out to help seven strangers. Organ Donation is the overriding theme of the film. Rather than lay out the storyline I’m just going to assume readers have seen it and talk about my reactions to it.

Firstly I must state; it is not a perfect film. There are inaccuracies, twee parts, unnecessary elements and errors from a person-who-studied-film-at-uni perspective. However my main interest (and reason for going to see it) was to see the handling of the organ donation content.

The main female character Emily had the most impact on me. Same name only highlighted further the similar circumstances she portrayed, and I found her convincing to the point of feeling my toes curl when certain gasps of breath or looks of fatigue took me sharply back to my past.The film is one filled with sadness and pain. Organ Donation, whilst the predominant thread, is not the only subject matter here; psychological issues and coping with loss and guilt are also explored.

But back to Organ Donation. Overall I think it was handled well as a subject. It was taken for granted that the viewer comprehended the severity of the donor shortage but I think the lack of weighty facts made it stronger by making it less preachy. Emily’s predicament was striking and could only really create a feeling of empathy and sadness from anyone watching.

I'd probably say that from my perspective, the best bit about it was the insight given into Emily’s ordeal. Because of this I think a great many people have been given an insight into life on the list; not a wholly accurate one, but a good one nevertheless.As I say, the film is a sad one, and by the end I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my face. Part of that was due to the plot and where it was going, part of it was reliving extracts from my past as they were played out on the screen. It made me think a great deal about my donor and their family. A lot of my sobs were for them.

I’m glad I went to see it, I’m glad it was made, and I’m very glad Will Smith took the role as it has heightened the Film’s profile a great deal. But I found it so very emotional...I don’t think I could watch it again anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

I saw this the other day having known nothing about the movie at all, was fairly surprised that the whole thing was basically about organ donation.

I did feel they simplified the process of donating and receiving organs a bit but overall I thought it did a great job to bring up the importance and emotion around organ donation that has never been shown on the big screen before (or at lest not that I am aware of). Also as you said, I didn't feel it was preachy. I was an absolute blubbering mess at the end but thing that if nothing else this probably will get a more mainstream audience, one that has never been touched by the need for a transplant or the decision to donate, something to think about.

Glad to hear you are continuing to do’s coming up on 3 years since I first found your blog and am always delighted to hear how well you are doing...was also nice to meet you in the flesh this year at the Adidas run :)

Sarah Milne said...

I may go along and see it one evening over the next few days.
loads of love Em
Sarah xxxx

Unknown said...

Over half of the 100,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

Kiz said...

Me and Friends often come to the same conclusion of *If you aren't willing to give yours, don't expect to be first on the list when you need one*
Obviously its not that clear cut, as there's people who CANT donate because of religion or health, but the ones that can..

Unknown said...


There is no one who can't donate because of health reasons. Everyone can offer to donate. No one can say today if your organs will be transplantable when you die in the future, because medical science keeps advancing. They're now transplanting organs from people who have HIV and cancer, for example.

As for people who "can't" donate for religious reasons, if their religion also says they can't accept a transplant then those people aren't at issue. Is there any religion says you can't donate your organs but can accept a transplant? If there is, should I be forced to donate my organs to a member of that religion? He won't donate to me (or to anyone else)?

Anonymous said...

I've been told by a doctor the only thing that will be useable is my corneas.

I'm an English kidney patient. No other diseases.

Anonymous said...

Andrea, I worked in (tissue) transplant and as far as I'm aware (although this was a while ago) having kidney problems won't de facto prevent you from donating other organs. On the other hand, it might prevent you from donating your corneas (and other tissues such as your heart valves (if your heart isn't suitable for transplant or if there isn't a match with a recipient or if you *die* and so can't be an organ donor) or skin) as they tend to be pickier for tissues, as these are used for life improving rather than life saving operations. I would sign up....then at least the doctors concerned can consider your case.

Better to offer and be turned down than to miss an opportunity to donate because of an assumption or incorrect or out of date information.

Anonymous said...

When I filled out my driving license form I ticked all the boxes allowing me to donate. It seems too easy. Is that it?

I don't know how the hospital would check that out. Do they type a dead persons name into a computer before they send the corpse to be autopsied?

Thanks for your reply Helen.

Jac said...

I don't think we can be as black and white as 'you give yours, i'll give mine' idea. It is not often until someone is directly affected by organ donation/transplant that they actually even think about it for the first time. So are we to punish all those in need of transplant who simply had not considered it before?

TBH i think you will find the majority (if not all) people who are waiting on tx, would willingly give their organs when they die anyway.

I don't think it would really reduce the waiting list but I can see your point.

We would also have to then move into - you can't have a transfusion if you have never given blood... sadly life is not as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andrea. With regards looking you up on a computer, yes, I think that's pretty much it. If you had your drivers license on you when you were admitted, that would help even more as there's a code on the back which indicates that you have ticked that box.

On the other hand...'before you go off to autopsy'....not that simple!

Firstly, and MOST people don't know this, you don't donate organs as a dead person, but as an alive one, if you will.

If you are brain stem dead (no activity in your brain, just the automatic stuff keeping your heart beating) *then* you can be a donor. There then follow lots of rigourous tests of this, which have to be carried out twice with a gap between of something like an hour, and which have to be done by two unconnected doctors. Once this is confirmed, donation can commence.

Usually by this stage your family will be at the hospital and they will know who you are. If you are on the ODR I'm not exactly sure what happens. If you aren't, they'll take this time to let the family know what the situation is, that you are as good as dead and without ventilation will die soon. Often at this stage a family will say 'what about organ donation' but if not a transplant coordinator may approach them and say 'have you thought about it' and 'would your loved one have wanted it?'. They'll probably be given some leaflets (including one with religious perspectives) and some quiet time to think and if need be talk to the nurses or Tx coordinator.

Nowadays, because of the ODR, your family don't 'consent' to donation but their 'lack of objection' is documented. Again, I don't know what happens if you are on the ODR as in all the time I worked in transplant I never came across a tissue donor who WAS on the register. Scary huh? There follows a long questionnaire about whether or not You have ever talked about donation and expressed a preference, and also about your medical and social history. I believe it is reasonably common for more than one person to be interviewed, sometimes separately, as often Mum's and partners will have different information about a persons lifestyle!!

The actual organ donation process then involves taking you up to an operating theatre where your heart is 'cross clamped' where basically they isolate it from the circulatory supply.

The body is then perfused with transplant fluid, which replaces the blood throughout the circulatory system, and keeps the organs in better nick for their speedy journey to their end point. After this each of the organs is carefully removed and moved as fast as can be to the intended recipient, where it will be assessed again for suitability (which is where one of the opportunities for false alarms arises).

The perfusion fluid means that if the family view the donor post donation they may notice he or she is a slightly funny colour, I think blueish, but most people I expect don't notice as they may not have seen a lot of dead bodies.

I think this aspect of organ is one of the least well understood- and never really touched on on TV. Families must find it unbearably hard to see their loved one wheeled away on a trolly, to not get a 'death' moment. I think this in turn makes it all the more important to discuss your desire to donate with family- if they know they are doing what you'd wanted it will help.

Tissue donation is slightly different as it can happen 48 hours after death (and indeed after organ donation) but I've said far too much here already. Perhaps one day I'll write a proper post on the matter.

(also....most people don't have Post Mortems- they'd just be taken down to the mortuary to await collection by the funeral director)