A mum whose teenage daughter died unexpectedly has described an emotional meeting with a young boy who received the gift of life from her daughter through organ donation.
Nicola and David Lee’s daughter Miriam, a student at Brooke Weston Academy, died aged 17 of a sudden and totally unexpected cardiac arrest in 2016.
Her parents knew that Miriam believed in organ donation and therefore had no hesitation in enabling the donation in the midst of their family’s tragedy.
As a result Miriam’s liver, kidneys and pancreas went on to save, or significantly improve, the lives of four people.
Miriam’s mum Nicola, from Kettering, is now a member of Kettering General Hospital’s Organ and Tissue Donation Committee and during national Organ Donation Week this week (September 7-13) is working with the committee to campaign for greater awareness of the importance of donation.
She said: “Miriam was an intelligent and friendly 17-year-old with a kind, caring and loving nature and we were devastated when she had the unexplained cardiac arrest.
“She was a strong believer in blood and organ donation and made her wishes on this very clear to us – so we had no hesitation in offering her organs, bones and soft tissue for transplantation.
“Miriam’s attitude was that if you would be prepared to accept an organ, you should be prepared to donate.
“We are immensely proud that she had that conversation with us so we did not have a decision to make.
“As a result of our donation we were able to correspond, anonymously at first, with the families who have benefitted from her donation.
“One family had already lost one son to a genetic liver condition and their second baby son, Ollie, had also developed the condition and he was very ill.
“He had his transplant shortly after Miriam’s death and it has been successful. We corresponded with the family and on March 14 this year they allowed us to visit them in Poole, Dorset, and my husband and I had a chance to meet Ollie.
“Although they were strangers to us we felt a very special connection with them, especially Ollie, because of Miriam’s donation.
“To see him running around and, now he is four, starting to understand that he ‘is looking after Miriam’s liver for her’ is just amazing.
“We are just so proud of Miriam and what she did. Having this experience really made us understand what the gift of life really means.”
The Lees are also in touch with other families who have also benefitted from Miriam’s donation including two middle aged ladies who have both benefitted from life-changing transplants, One received a kidney and pancreas transplant and the other a kidney transplant.
New law - but your family still needs to say yes to organ donation
England moved to an opt-out system for organ donation with the introduction of Max and Keira’s law, on May 20 this year – although families are still involved and must consent before donation goes ahead.
Kettering General Hospital’s Organ and Tissue Donation Committee Chair, Shirley Newman, said: “Organ donation is the only hope for many desperately ill people.
“When someone dies it is always a great loss to those who are left behind but organ donation really does mean that you can pass on the gift of life.
“It is well known that many families feel a sense of pride and comfort from their decision to let their relative’s final act be to save and transform other people’s lives.
“As a committee we are campaigning to encourage people to understand the new law but also – very importantly – to have the conversation with their relatives so that their wishes are known.
“Even with the new law families must still consent to donation so it makes things much easier if your wishes are known.”
During national Organ Donation Week (7th -13th September 2020) KGH has erected a banner near one of its Rothwell Road entrances, one by the Maternity Theatre block and has lift wrap banners in its lifts. It is also holding a virtual challenge encouraging staff to walk around the hospital’s grounds as part of an awareness raising national initiative.
To find out more about organ and tissue donation visit the NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and share your decision with your family.