Organ donation can save the lives of others. When Jane Andrew, 59, lost her loving husband Darren three years ago, she was able to support his decision to donate his organs. Here, she shares how knowing what he wanted helped her and their family during a very traumatic time.
“Darren was a wonderful husband and simply the best father to our three daughters Louise, Charlotte and Briony. He always managed to see the humour in life and was mad about sport – any sport. He loved to run marathons and cycled long distance charity bike rides across Europe.
“When we lost him we were completely devastated. What we thought was a bad bout of flu turned out to be meningitis – he fell ill on a Sunday and by Tuesday we knew that sadly he couldn’t be saved. When I was asked about organ donation after he died, I knew straight away what he wanted and it took away any difficult decision making for me.
I knew his organ donation decision
“A specialist nurse stayed with us and helped us navigate that time in the hospital as suitable donors were found for Darren’s organs. There was of course a process and lots of forms to fill in, but the fact that his decision to donate was registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register made it less of a nightmare.
“Me and my two younger daughters stayed by his side throughout. As heartbreaking as it was, we are grateful for that precious time with him so we could say our goodbyes.
“A long time ago Darren and I had told each other our wishes to be organ donors. I’d worked for years as a midwife and I knew the importance of having these conversations. Also, a friend of ours had a genetic condition and had needed a kidney transplant, and I remember me and Darren had chatted about it then too – we both believed it would be a waste not to save the lives of others if anything was to happen to us.
He saved the lives of others
“After Darren’s funeral, the NHS Organ Donation team told us that one of Darren’s kidneys had gone to a woman in her thirties who’d been having dialysis for over two years. Another lady in her forties received his other kidney and she had been on the waiting list for six months. Darren’s liver went to a young woman in her twenties. I know he’d be so proud of this being a dad of daughters. It offers me huge comfort that his extra special heart went to a man in his fifties and that his lungs and pancreas was used for life-saving research to help others in the future.
“Knowing how he has helped others can brighten the girls’ days too when their grief is overwhelming. They all actively encourage the conversation about organ donation among their friends and we did a lot of fundraising afterwards. We raised £15,000 doing a bike ride to Scotland and we shared this between the intensive care unit and a charity called the Donor Family Network.
“Darren’s amazing gifts have enabled others to live and this was only possible because I was sure it was what he wanted. He is our hero.”
Whatever your organ donation decision, the best thing you can do is register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and talk to your friends and family – to give them the certainty they need to support it. Amazingly, 9 out of 10 families in the UK support organ donation going ahead when they know it’s what their loved one would have wanted.
In this video, families talk about how they had the conversation about organ donation – and why it’s so important to talk about your decision