Search
Generic filters

Author Interview: National Donate Life Awareness Month with Dr. Lou Anne Wellford

Cristen Iris

One of the most often cited reasons for writing a book is a desire to improve the lives of others. While books can certainly do that and some can even touch lives for generations, organ donation not only improves lives, it saves them.

Dr. Lou Anne Wellford is an author and organ donation advocate who recognizes the blessing of organ donation as well as the complicated emotional journeys donor families and organ recipients face. In her forthcoming book, she tells the story of organ donation from many perspectives and shows how this gift can bring people together and establish a legacy of love and compassion.

As an emergency department (ED) physician, what is it that pulls you toward writing?

I have always been an avid reader and lifelong learner. Over my years in the emergency department, I have heard so many stories and met some fascinating people. I wanted to share those experiences with the public.

Why did you choose Bonnie’s heart transplant story as your first step into narrative nonfiction?

I have a personal connection to the story. As a close friend, I witnessed Bonnie’s recent health crises first-hand, and that intimacy helped me to channel her experience. My medical knowledge gave me an understanding of how truly sick she was and the remarkable obstacles she has overcome. That expertise also allowed me to serve as an interpreter of the medical terminology and complex procedures that are integral to this tale.

This experience created a rare opportunity for me to observe the medical establishment from the other side of the bed, through the eyes of the patient and family instead of through my usual perspective as the physician. Writing this story reminded me why I chose a career in medicine and reinforced the unique service and comfort physicians provide in a time of crisis.

What strikes you as the most important thing people should know in case they’re someday faced with losing a loved one suddenly and tragically?

No one can ever truly prepare for such an event, but they need to know that there are numerous resources to help them navigate such a loss: the medical staff with experience in similar situations, social workers, clergy, support groups, family, friends. They should rely on others to help them function and process the loss of a loved one. There is no need to suffer alone in these circumstances.

How has writing this book influenced your practice as an ED doctor?

Bonnie’s experience reminds me of how frightening it can be to be a patient. While a particular illness or injury may be commonplace for me, I try to remember how unsettling the loss of control and uncertainty can be for the patient. I strive to spend more time reassuring the patient and family or educating them about the condition. And I’ve become a better listener as I try to discern a patient’s concerns amidst the chaos of the emergency department.

This book has high highs and low lows. How did the subject matter affect you as you wrote?

The writing was emotionally draining at times, especially as I wrote from a third-person perspective and strove to realistically convey several character’s struggles. But as exhausting as the writing could be, it was also cathartic. As an introvert, I often internalize my feelings and observations. Being able to release those emotions onto paper was very liberating and rewarding.

Where can people who are interested in being an organ donor go for more information or to register to be an organ donor?

You can register online through Organdonor.gov or Donatelife.net.

Those websites provide statistics about organ donation and Stories of Hope by organ recipients and donors. You can also register as a donor at your local motor vehicle department.

About Lou Anne

Lou Anne Wellford, MD headshotLou Anne Wellford, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician who has practiced medicine for over 30 years. Her medical education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, known as the “Organ Transplantation Capital of the World,” stimulated her excitement for emergency care and her lifelong interest in transplant.

Dr. Wellford completed her emergency medicine residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. She spent eight years as an officer in the U.S. Army, ultimately achieving the rank of Major. She currently works with a large independent group of physicians at Greater San Antonio Emergency Physicians. She and her physician husband have three adult children.

To learnmore about Lou Anne and her writing projects, visit louannewellfordmd.com.

 

Feature Image by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

 

Cristen Iris

CI Communication Strategies

2021

Top closealign-rightchevron-downlinkedinellipsis-vyoutube-play