Organ donation

Lesley - Interview 19

Age at interview: 58

Brief outline: Lesley's son, Kristian, sadly died after a road accident in 1997, aged 21. Kristian gave the 'gift of life' to five people. Lesley would like to have annual updates on their welfare but has heard nothing for over thirteen years.

Background: Lesley is married and has an adult daughter. She runs a Bed and Breakfast. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

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In 1997, Lesley’s son, Kristian, died after having a road traffic accident, aged 21. Kristian was driving his motorcycle home one Friday morning when the accident happened. Lesley was on her way out to spend the day with her daughter and grandchildren. They were in the traffic that was diverted away from the accident area but did not know, at this point, that Kristian had been involved in this accident. They carried on their day as normal and did not return home until 6'30pm that evening. Back at home, Lesley was greeted by her very distressed husband, who informed her that Kristian had been in a serious accident.

Lesley and her husband went straight to the hospital. Kristian’s condition was worse than they had imagined. He was in a coma, had suffered a severe head injury, and it was possible that he might not survive. This was shocking news, difficult to take in or believe.

Throughout that weekend, friends and family spent a lot of time by Kristian’s bedside, talking to him and hoping he would recover. On the Sunday evening, shortly after returning home to try and rest, Lesley received a phone call to say that Kristian’s condition had changed. The blood pressure in his head had increased and he was dying.

Lesley immediately returned to the hospital and stayed with Kristian, talking to him all night. The following day, doctors carried out brain stem tests and confirmed that Kristian had died. It was at this point they discussed organ donation with a specialist nurse [coordinator]. Lesley and Kristian’s father consented, a decision she felt was made easier because they had discussed organ donation some years earlier.

The transplant coordinator took a lot of time to explain everything to them and made herself available for further questions. Lesley recalled how, at the time, it was very difficult to take everything in because of the trauma. They ended up speaking with the transplant coordinator on three or four occasions before the Tuesday evening, when the operation took place.

Lesley explained how important it was for her to see Kristian’s body after surgery, as this helped her to accept his death. This was a very distressing experience but something she felt she needed to do. Lesley said they then left the hospital feeling ‘absolutely lost and desolate’ because they were given no further information and felt they had no one to turn to.

Two months later, Lesley received news from the transplant coordinator that Kristian’s organs had gone to five different recipients. Six months later, she received another letter updating her on their progress. She also received a letter from the recipient of Kristian’s lungs, which she said was ‘absolutely wonderful’. After this, however, Lesley heard nothing more from the transplant coordinator, though would value hearing about the recipients’ welfare on an annual basis.

After Kristian’s death, Lesley felt unable to contact the transplant coordinator, though she had questions, as she did not want to take up her time. Lesley became very depressed, described ‘going on autopilot’, and felt she had no one to turn to.

Lesley later found out about a charity called CRUSE that offers free, confidential help to bereaved people. Through the charity, a counsellor visited her at home once a week and this was a tremendous support. Lesley is now involved in a charity herself, called ‘Brake’, that campaigns to stop avoidable road traffic accidents and supports bereaved families.



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