Hazel McHaffie

organ donation and transplantation

Donating organs

I am feeling both humbled and privileged. But let’s go back to the beginning …

On an icily cold morning in February 2008, Martin was diverted on his way to work because of an accident on his usual route. He called his wife, Mary, and asked her to ring their son, Paudraig, on his mobile phone. There was no answer.Paudraig

This was a tight-knit Irish community and word travelled fast. The owner of the house at the scene of the accident knew exactly whose car it was. First to arrive were local nurses on their way to work – they knew the driver. Paudraig had skidded on an icy bend in the road and slammed into concrete. By the time his parents arrived at the hospital this vibrant, much-loved lad, aged just 21, was wired up to machinery. And the medical predictions were bleak.

It’s almost too painful to try to imagine their emotions. And yet … they found the courage to do two things very swiftly: they offered his organs for transplantation; and they requested that all his friends and family be given time and opportunity to come in to see him while he was still alive. Both gestures had a profound effect on many lives.

Recently, in the course of research for my current novel, I had the privilege of talking to Mary, hearing her story, listening to the reasons why they did as they did. A more altruistic and generous family it would be hard to find. Paudraig's drawingAnd as if that were not enough, a package subsequently arrived in the post for me: photos of Paudraig; copies of letters recounting the progress of the organ recipients and their heartfelt thanks; The Northern Ireland Transplant Association leaflets telling Paudraig’s story and appealing for donors; poems and tributes and … incredibly … three pen-and-ink drawings by this hugely talented artist, Paudraig. All unsolicited. Sent to a complete stranger. Treasures beyond price.

If anyone can move the public to sign up to donating their organs, it has to be families like this. In the midst of one of the worst kinds of pain known to man, they yet think of others. They see hope coming out of tragedy, and they are comforted that even in death, their loved ones can reach out to help the needy.

What a legacy.

And all unexpectedly I have fallen inside the orbit of this family’s embrace. Awed and indebted beyond words.

If you have been affected by Paudraig’s story, why not visit www.uktransplant.org.uk today? And remember … do talk to your nearest and dearest about your intentions. A conversation today could save many lives tomorrow.

*Pictures reproduced by kind permission of Paudraig’s family

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