Giving through grief: Saving lives through tissue donation
PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 07:31 07 January 2020
A Romford mother tells how donating her son's organs helped save eight other lives, and how her sight is now being saved thanks to tissue donation.
When 21-year-old Paul Grove died in a motorbike accident in 2001, his mother Christine didn't hesitate to donate his organs and tissue.
Now, after learning that she may need tissue donation to save her sight, she's urging others to become donors.
The mother-of-three knew that Paul was in support of organ donation after the whole family got donor cards. She recalled: "His dad was a bit unsure at first and it was Paul who told him not to be ridiculous and that it wouldn't matter to him if he was dead!"
In a twist of fate, Christine found out this year that she may need a corneal transplant in the future after developing Fuchs dystrophy, an eye disorder.
She added: "It led to a conversation with the team in the eye department at Queen's Hospital about the importance of raising awareness of tissue donation. People know about organ donation, but they don't realise you can also give tissue, including your eyes."
Paul helped save and transform the lives of at least eight people through successful kidney, liver, heart valve and corneal transplants, and it was a letter from one of the recipients which brought a moment of happiness to the family at such a difficult time.
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Christine said: "A couple of years after Paul died I decided to write to his donor recipients to tell them a bit about him and send a picture. I got a few replies, and one in particular had me sobbing with joy.
"It was from a man who had one of his kidneys. He said it was miracle as he and his wife had been devastated when they found out she couldn't be a living donor for him, right at the final hurdle.
"He said Paul's gift had changed his life and that he would always be part of their family. He had three children himself and one was Paul's age. It was just so joyful in the misery of it all, to know that Paul had made a difference."
Although she lost Paul right before Christmas 2001, Christine, 64, said she actually struggles more around Bonfire Night, as the fireworks remind her of the three days she spent at Paul's bedside when he was in a coma at the former Oldchurch Hospital.
She was also full of praise for the hospital staff for looking after Paul so well and showing such kindness and sensitivity.
As donating Paul's organs gave her such comfort in her grief, Christine is now an even more passionate advocate, and has welcomed the change in the law this spring, in which people who do not wish to donate their organs will need to opt out, rather than opting in.
She said: "It's a brilliant idea which means anyone who has a real aversion to it can opt out. A lot of people who do believe in organ donation don't get around to opting in. This way their organs can still be donated, which will mean many more will be available to save lives.
"When I was at Paul's bedside, a nurse called me brave for donating his organs. You don't become brave, you have a choice to make. You've already lost the person anyway, and to know, in my case, he's really helped people, is just amazing."