Letters of gratitude from people who were given the gift of life, Wales, UK
by Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail
A new book brings together moving letters from transplant recipients to organ donors’ families. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley met Colin and Betty Burgess who received one of them following the death of their daughter Louise
LOUISE Burgess saved the lives of strangers when she died suddenly and unexpectedly, almost nine years ago.
One of those lives was a father-of-two – Philip – who had suffered unexplained acute liver failure just a few weeks previously.
Louise was committed to organ donation and had previously discussed her wishes with her family. Her parents Colin and Betty said they were comforted by the fact she carried a donor card.
Mr Burgess, who lives in Barry and has become a fervent campaign for organ donation, said: “When she died we felt numb but what carried us through was the fact that we had talked to Louise and knew that she carried a card.
“When it came to agreeing to donate her organs we had no difficulty in saying yes and I was so proud of my daughter.
“She gave the greatest gift that anyone can give.”
Louise, a 33-year-old former security manager, who had been in robust health, suffered a massive brain haemorrhage on June 27, 2002.
Her father, who had been preparing lunch at home, rushed to her bedside when Louise’s friend had called saying she was ill.
“By then Wendy [Louise’s friend] had called the doctor only to be told to give Louise a couple of aspirin.
“But in minutes her condition had worsened.
“This time the doctor advised an ambulance be called and very soon a paramedic arrived, together with the doctor.
“The ambulance, however, took a further 20 minutes to arrive.
“Louise was received immediately at the University Hospital of Wales’ accident and emergency unit and by 1.30pm she was in the intensive care ward connected to the life support system.
“Wendy and I were informed at this time that, sadly, there was no hope.”
He added: “We met Louise Collar and Lorraine Hill, the duty transplant co-ordinators, and that inevitable question was asked.
“Our decision that day to say yes was made bearable because during the many conversations we had with our dear daughter Louise, we knew her wishes and that she cared enough to carry a donor card.”
In the years since Louise’s death, Mr and Mrs Burgess, who are both in their 70s, have become staunch supporters of and campaigners for organ donation.
They also believe in changing to an opt-out system, under which people would automatically be considered as organ donors unless they opt out during their lifetime.
They were among a number of families invited to attend a Department of Health workshop in 2009 to consider ways of raising awareness and recognition of organ donation.
Thank You For Life, a collection of letters from transplant recipients, including Philip's, to donor families, by the Royal College of Physicians is the ultimate result of those discussions.
Mr Burgess said: “Our reward, if you can call it that, was the letter of grateful thanks we received from each of Louise’s recipients.
“We hope this book will give heart to other people in the same situation and show them that despite the heartache of losing a loved one, giving life to others and seeing how other families’ lives can be transformed can help heal your own wounds.”
Thank You For Life, published by the Royal College of Physicians costs £7 and is available from the RCP online bookshop at bookshop.rcplondon.ac.uk. All proceeds will go towards the promotion of organ donation. Copies of the book are also available at Barry and Cardiff Central libraries.
To join the organ donor register call 0300 123 23 23