Donor Family Stories

In loving memory of Kirstie.

Derek and Eunice Booker lost their eldest daughter Kirstie on 10th December 2006, aged 26, when she was involved in a car accident on her way to work. Kirstie had gained a Masters degree in Chemistry and during her time studying had worked for Harvester Restaurants. On graduation she continued to work for the company and became the General Manager of their restaurant in Ashford in July 2006. Kirstie and her partner Mike, who also worked for Harvester Restaurants as a Head Chef, had purchased a house together in August 2006.
It was whilst travelling to work on 5th December 2006 that Kirstie & Mike had a car accident and Kirstie sustained severe injuries to her brain.

Eunice recalls, “she was initially nursed at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, where we were told from the outset that her injuries were severe and that only be a miracle would pull her through. She was transferred to Kings overnight on the Wednesday/Thursday. Unfortunately our miracle never happened and the decision was made to turn off Kirstie’s life support machine on 9th December.

During the long night of the 5th December Derek and I talked about losing Kirstie. We knew that she would want to donate her organs to help others continue to live. We discussed our thoughts with our other daughter Natalie and Mike. Mike initially had reservations but they both agreed that it was what Kirstie would want.

We made the staff at both the William Harvey and Kings aware of our wishes. On the 9th December when the medical staff started to carry out brain stem tests it came apparent that because Kirstie continued to breathe she no longer reached the criteria but as originally discussed her brain was so severally injured she would not survive.

We had a long and painful meeting with the donor co-ordinator who explained everything to us, and who established that Kirstie had been on the donor register since she was fifteen. We discussed what organs Kirstie would want to donate, a major factor in this was that Kirstie had a rare blood group. She was able to donate her lungs, kidneys, liver and heart valves”.


In loving memory of Martin

21.4.1987 to 28.8.2003

Nigel and Sue Burton lost their youngest son Martin on 28th August 2003, following a sudden brain haemorrhage. His Mum Sue says about Martin, “He was a real boy, full of fun, caring and had loads of friends”.

Sue recalls that night vividly: “In the early hours of 27th August 2003 Martin staggered into our bedroom with a dazed and confused expression on his face. He looked at me when I spoke and I dearly hope that he heard me and knew that I was there in his final moments as he then collapsed onto the floor. He was in a deep coma. He was taken by ambulance to QMC in Nottingham where we were told that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage. Martin was on life support as our family gathered together. Despite the best efforts of the medical profession we were told that Martin had suffered such an extensive bleed that he was not going to live.

Shortly afterwards we were asked if we had ever considered organ donation. It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make but we know it was what Martin would have wanted. Martin was young and his organs were healthy and I knew that he could save or enhance the lives of others. News travels fast and lots of Martin’s friends visited him that day to say goodbye. We spent the following 36 hours at Martin’s bedside holding his hand until it was time for the retrieval to take place. We had said our tearful goodbyes but it was so difficult to leave the hospital that night, knowing we were leaving him behind forever. Martin was able to donate his heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and corneas.

The loss of a child is heartbreaking. You know life will never be the same again- it can’t be. Surrounded by a world that had not changed we had to face a new world and the battle to find a new way began. I mourned all the things Martin would miss – learning to drive, girlfriends, a career, travel and children. It takes a long time to reinvest in life but there come a time when we are not consumed by the grief of our loss. The pain is not so raw now, but softer and more peaceful.

I have learnt to accept periods of pain as there will always be triggers when we least expect them. I have learned to find joy in my life and live it with meaning and purpose. Martin lives in our hearts and is in our thoughts every day and we are lucky to have had those growing years with him. Martin’s life was short but so full of life and laughter and that is how we remember him now as we think about the character he was. Those treasured memories of the good times we shared can never be taken away.

Nigel and I have been Trustees of the Donor Family Network for a number of years in which the world of organ donation has changed our lives and focus in so many ways. We don’t realise what a mighty gift we can give when called upon to make a decision about organ donation. Few people have the chance to change someone’s world as much as they can at that moment. The members of the charity are an amazing group of people. We have also met a large number of recipients and have been involved in a large amount of media work, including radio and television, as a result of which we have had the honour of meeting the recipients of Martins liver and heart. All of these experiences keep Martin’s memory alive. We attend the British Transplant Games each year, where the athletes are inspirational, so determined to honour their donor.

We still think of Martin every day. We carry him inside, unseen but still contributing to our loves in so many ways. We remember him with pride for the gift of life he gave and for all that he was, for all that he might have been and all that he still is to his family and friends”.


In loving memory of Sam

Sam Hawkridge suffered a sudden brain haemorrhage on 31st October 2004 aged 8 years old, following which he donated his kidneys, Liver and heart valves.

His mum Natalie says, “the Doctor asked and we thought it would be something Sam would have wanted to do. We have had no contact with the recipients but we are glad we made the decision to donate. Sam was bossy to his little brother Philip (now 22), he was autistic and a very happy little boy”.

Natalie notes one of the families best memories as a holiday in Blackpool just before Sam died when she remembers a Thunderbird 3 on the promenade which Sam loved to go past every day. She adds, “Sam loved trains so when we go on holiday we try to have a trip on a steam train in memory of Sam’s love for trains”. The family love to recall their fond memories of Sam with friends. Natalie has kept Sam’s cub uniform and badges and is especially proud of these special items. Sam’s dad Mick, brother Philip and Natalie were pleased to receive support from the Donor Family Network (DFN).

They have been supporters of the DFN for many years and recently held a car boot sale to raise funds for us. They have regularly attended our annual memorial service and the Transplant Games.


In loving memory of Caroline.

Caroline Harvey sadly passed away on 1st March 2014, aged 40 years, following a tragic riding accident whilst enjoying the sport she loved.

“Caroline was a much-loved daughter, sister and wife. As a child she was always a live wire, enthusiastic about everything and she did well at school. She graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford with a degree in Business Studies. She obtained work in Chelmsford and then moved to London where she bought her first home with boyfriend Barney, who she subsequently married. Unfortunately things did not work out and she returned to Melton and found employment in Coventry, becoming a successful business woman.

Caroline lived life to the full. She loved travelling and had many holidays abroad but her greatest love was horses and dogs. We had kept horses since Caroline was a child and she loved to ride regularly. Despite suffering from an arthritic condition affecting her neck and spine which at times caused her a lot of pain she continued riding and enjoying life to the full. Caroline met Paul and they married just eight months before her accident.

On 23rd February she went off riding as she often did on a Sunday. Unfortunately she was thrown from her horse and fractured her neck. When I heard the news I was told that she was not able to move from the neck down but was conscious and had been taken to Coventry Trauma unit by air ambulance. She was struggling to breath and was placed on a life support machine and her neck was secured. On the Monday we were amazed to see her conscious and able to communicate with us, although unable to speak. This day was very special to us as it allowed us to tell her how much we loved her. The doctors warned us that her condition was serious and that they would have to operate to stabilise her but that she may not regain feeling from the neck down. During the operation she suffered an asthma attack and then a heart attack which caused brain damage. We were then told that she would not recover and that life support would have to be discontinued.

It was at this point we were approached about organ donation. As we had prepared ourselves for this we had no hesitation in agreeing. I felt that at least someone else’s life may be saved or enhanced which was something Caroline always tried to do and so we felt that this was something she would have wanted to do. Both of Caroline’s kidneys, her pancreas and liver were all transplanted. I have since received three letters from a lady who received a kidney which has given her a normal life. I find it very comforting to know that the loss of our daughter was not a total waste of life.

Caroline had many friends and strong relationships with her work colleagues. Proof of this was at her funeral service where they spoke very highly of her. She was generous with her love and inspired many with her enthusiasm and drive. Caroline made many friends in the horse world and inspired them to make the most of their lives. Since her death they have raised a total of £28,000 for the Air Ambulance. It is now nearly 8 years since we lost Caroline and some of her organs were donated. I continue to communicate with one recipient via email on a regular basis she is doing well after a few other health problems but is so grateful for the full life she has been able to lead since the transplant.

I felt that I needed to tell people about my bright and bubbly daughter who had achieved so much in her lifetime, so I wrote a book. " The Life, Loves and Legacy of Caroline Harvey". It served several purposes, firstly it made me appreciate that Caroline had made the most of her life while she was here, also it gave her friends and family something solid they could remember her by. Many copies were sold raising money to support the Air Ambulance service and the Donor Family Network. Each year I buy a new rose Bush for the garden in memory of Caroline and each summer I enjoy their blooms as Caroline once bloomed"

We will treasure the many gift and memories she gave us over the years and she will live forever in our hearts”.


I’m a donor family wife – Karen Piotr

You can be in control of many things in life such as what you will have for dinner tonight or where you will go on holiday next year. There is however nothing to prepare you for being a widow, I was naïve in thinking that was something for older people, but in May 2017 that became a reality for me.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m sitting in intensive care. Mark is hooked up to a life support machine with many wires and tubes coming to and from everywhere possible on his body, he has suffered a spontaneous catastrophic brain bleed. How can this be happening? Mark is 49 and he had been happy, healthy and a bit overweight, but full of life. He had hardly ever had a day sick in the 31 years we had been together.

I’ve seen the numbers on the machines, they have not changed for hours.

The doctor approaches and everything around me stops. Adrenaline surges. There is nothing else they can do for him and we have to talk about the next steps. We are organ donors, what about his organs, can they be used?

So begins the medical process of assessing whether Marks’ organs can be used.

How do I say goodbye to my husband?
How do I say goodbye to my soul mate and best friend?

A specialist nurse for organ donation greets me, he talks to me about what’s going to happen and the timeline for organ retrieval. He is a patient man, kind and nervous of the questions he has to ask me. I don’t feel rushed or pressured and I can ask him very questions too. All Marks major organs and tissue are accepted and I think of the donor recipients at this time (8 in my case) they will be getting THE phone call.

Have their bags been packed for a longtime?
Will they be on their way to hospital?
Will their families be waiting anxiously for their loved one to come through their life saving operation?

I leave hospital and try to contemplate life on my own - after 31 years how is that even possible? I have to go home to an empty house and try look to the future – where will it take me?

Jump to the middle of June 2017 and I receive a beautiful handwritten letter from the recipient of Mark’s liver. A truly powerful and thankful letter. Full of hope and gratitude – wow I’m touched and very emotional that this man has written to me so quickly and I have no hesitation in responding the same day, also with a hand written letter.

And so begins our journey to discover more about each other and how my Mark has given this man a second chance of life. We meet around Christmas, back in hospital where he had his transplant operation.

He has a gift for me, a beautiful framed print of a dog looking to a blue sky, with these words on the back ‘this was the first painting I did after the transplant. The realisation of the appreciation of the simple things in life, like feeling the sun on your face. Love Pete’.

This man is an artist; this man is Pete McKee, the popular and well-known painter and cartoonist from Sheffield. This man has his own dedicated gallery and this man regularly exhibits his work in big exhibitions. He offers me a glimpse of what his life involves, his artwork and creations and how the life saving operation has given him a new lease of life and a new burst of euphoric energy.

I only honored Mark’s wishes to be an organ donor, I had no hesitation in agreeing, as his next of kin, to sign the consent form that day in May 2017, I knew that would be what he wanted, we had talked about it many times.

I feel such pride and joy. Mark was one of life’s givers. I have many wonderful recollections of uncountable happy memories from all the amazing things we did together. He was a caring, compassionate man who loved me to the moon and back. His generosity and kindness knew no limits and through his selfless act, he has now saved and/or improved the lives of 8 people – how amazing and special.

In Spring 2020 the Law around organ donation in England changed, all adults will now be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor. I would urge everyone to talk to their family and let them know their organ donation decision so that more people could pass on more organs, to save more lives.

Looking forward and I’ve had the honor of lighting the flame for the launch of the British Transplant Games that are going to be in Leeds in 2022. My home town and where Mark gave the gift of life to others and recently became the Chair of the Organ Donation committee at the Bradford Royal Infirmary another amazing opportunity to continue advocating my passion for organ donation.


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