‘Valeria’ Offers a Look into the World of Organ Transplants

Honest and grim, short film Valeria written/directed by Erin Vassilopoulos introduces its audience to the side of organ transplants people rarely talk about.

We hear about people getting organ transplants all the time. We know receiving someone else’s organs is a life-changing and extremely long process. However, what we don’t know is the interactions that occur between the families of the donor and recipient. Do the families ever meet and get to know one another? Do they develop a friendship or do they distance themselves from each other? This film explores this concept and shows both sides of the families’ stories.

Beginning with the audio of an interview about the main character’s procedure, we are first introduced to Ava when we see her doctor wrapping her face with bandages. She recently had a partial face transplant and is heading home. But on her way home, she begins to notice a strong connection between her and her donor. Before she fully embraces their connection, all she knows about her donor is that she committed suicide.

After the surgery, Ava is having a hard time readjusting to life. So when she arrives home, her mom throws her a surprise party. All Ava wants to do is tell her mom about her donor’s suicide but her mom doesn’t want to hear anything about it. Instead, she tries to make Ava interact with the guests. Although this party is supposed to be for her, none of the guests seem to care that Ava is home. From the party and her mom’s disapproval of her talking about the transplant, we can assume Ava comes from a middle-class or upper-class home and isn’t close to her mom.

Rather than let her mom’s opinions get to her, Ava decides to embrace her bond with her donor and becomes consumed with learning more about her. The more she discovers the more connected she feels. She even asks her doctor about the possibility of feeling connected to her donor. Her doctor dismisses the idea but Ava’s nurse tries to support it. Her nurse mentions a doctor did a case study about patients experiencing their donor’s memories. Although people many have different views about this subject, we have definitely heard stories about patients craving food their donors loved or liking things their donors used to like. Despite what her doctor says, Ava continues to go on the hunt to find out more about her donor’s life.

Her first interaction with her donor’s sister was awkward because the sister wanted nothing to do with her. The donor’s father, however, was more open to talking to Ava and getting to know her. The family’s reluctance toward Ava is completely understandable. Can you imagine what it’s like to lose someone you love and know that someone else has their face? The family needed time to adjust to this which Ava didn’t seem to understand right away. Her need to see them blinded her from seeing they were still in the process of mourning.

Although many of us have never personally experienced an organ transplant, this film helped us comprehend why Ava wanted to meet her donor’s family and why she struggled to adjust to life after the surgery. As a patient receiving someone else’s organ, it’s difficult to know how to go about the situation. Ava could have accepted the transplant and never reached out to the family. But, her determination to meet them shows how aware she was that her situation affected more than her and her family.

Although we never learn why Ava needed the transplant, the story presents this sensitive subject matter in a beautiful way. This film was able to open our eyes and show us the emotional struggles that sometimes occur after an organ transplant.

Ebony Bellamy

Ebony studied magazine journalism and is currently hoping to continue with her studies at graduate school in the fall. When she's not writing, she is reading the latest copy of National Geographic and browsing the internet for new books to read. As an avid reader, Ebony enjoys learning and is always looking to explore new content. She has also traveled to Europe and is always ready to embark on a new adventure.

Monologue Blogger Newsletter
* indicates required