Organ donation

Eunice - Interview 14

Age at interview: 55

Brief outline: Eunice's daughter, Kirstie, sadly died after a car accident in 2006, aged 26. She had registered for organ donation at the age of fifteen. Kirstie gave the 'gift of life' to five people. Eunice would like to have annual updates on their welfare.

Background: Eunice is an accountant. She is married and has two daughters. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

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Eunice’s daughter, Kirstie, sadly died after a car accident in 2006, aged 26. She was travelling to work with her partner when the accident happened. In hospital, Eunice, her family and Kirstie’s partner were told that Kirstie had had extensive brain damage and doctors did not expect her to survive. After some surgery, Kirstie was taken to intensive care.

Eunice and her husband, Kirstie’s father, decided that, in the event of Kirstie’s death, they would want to donate her organs as this is what Kirstie had wanted. She had registered for organ donation at the age of fifteen. They discussed the decision with their other daughter, Kirstie’s younger sister, and Kirstie’s partner, and told doctors about their decision.

Kirstie was later transferred from the local hospital to a city hospital. Eunice said, ‘We then had a further meeting with the intensive care staff and the donor co-ordinator [specialist nurse], who explained that they were going to do the brain stem test and then, depending on the results – but everybody knew what they were going to be. They would then take it the step further and do whatever needed to be done. Unfortunately, when they did the brain stem testing, Kirstie carried on breathing so she was no longer brain stem criteria. So it was then a case of having to turn her machines off. We then had a meeting with the donor co-ordinator and decided what organs we wanted to donate.’ Kirstie’s lungs, liver, kidneys and heart valves were donated.

Eunice praised the care Kirstie had received from doctors and nurses in both hospitals and the support from the specialist nurse [donor co-ordinator], who gave them locks of Kirstie’s hair and handprints. They heard from one recipient almost immediately after Kirstie’s death. On the anniversary of her death, Eunice contacted the donor co-ordinator because they wanted more information about the other recipients. Around this time, they received a letter from a young lady who had received Kirstie’s lungs.

Eunice said they would like updates annually about the recipients and feels ‘let down’ by the co-ordinator because this has never happened. Kirstie gave ‘the gift of life’ to five people but they heard from only two of the recipients.

Four years on, Eunice said her husband was ready to meet the recipient of Kirstie’s lungs but she herself has found it very difficult and had not answered any of the letters they had received. She said, ‘Although it’s nearly four years, it’s still raw, really quite raw. And I have lots to say to her, but it’s just putting pen to paper. It’s baring my soul, that’s what it’s doing and it makes me very vulnerable. And, as silly as it sounds, I’m frightened to meet any of them in case I don’t like them. Because Kirstie was very special and what she’s done makes her even more special, that’s as far as I’m concerned. And I’m just frightened that if I was to meet somebody that had one of her organs and I didn’t like them, and then it would spoil how I feel about it.’

Eunice would have liked more information about the process of inquests and, understandably, found the inquest very difficult. Kirstie died in December but they were unable to register her death until May because of the inquest.

Eunice and her husband gained some support from bereavement counselling. They also had a lot of support from friends and family, including Kirstie’s general manager at work, who became a good friend. They now meet up with him several times a year, including on Kirstie’s birthday and around the anniversary of her death.

Eunice has been involved in raising awareness of organ donation. She and her family are very proud of Kirstie and the ‘gift of life’ she gave to five people.


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