Family who donated dad’s organ encourage others to talk about transplants

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A FAMILY who made the tough decision to donate their dad’s organs said: ‘We knew he would have wanted us to do it’.

Sophie Clifford and her family were supported through the process and are sharing their experience as part of Organ Donation Week.

The national awareness week wants families to know what their loved one’s wishes are when they die.

Sophie’s dad Roy Whitehead died six years ago after having a stroke. The 56-year-old spent three days in a coma and the family were told only machines were keeping him alive.

Two tests looking for signs of life were conducted but Sophie, from Portsmouth, said they knew it was time to say goodbye.

‘Once we knew that dad would not be coming out of his coma we were approached by an organ transplant co-ordinator called Cathy,’ she said.

‘She was absolutely lovely and there was no pressure at all, she just talked to us and explained how the process worked.

‘Although dad was not on the organ donor register, he’d always been open about his wishes.

‘We knew he would have wanted to give his organs and it made us feel happy and incredibly proud to be able to fulfil that wish for him at the end.’

Sophie, who works as a dietitian at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, said speaking to Cathy was the start of the healing process after their loss.

The family spoke to her about what sort of person Roy, from Doncaster, was and his hobbies. 

In the end, they agreed to donate his kidneys, pancreas and liver.

Sophie added: ‘Mum found giving away his eyes and his heart too painful.

‘Cathy stayed with dad during the operation and chatted to him about all of us. She called us afterwards to let us know how it all went. Unfortunately, they were not able to use his pancreas.’

Through Cathy, the family were told the age and gender of the organ recipients and all the transplants were a success.

One of the receivers was able to go back to work thanks to Roy’s donation.  

Sophie, 29, said: ‘We were so happy and proud of dad all over again and knew he would have been totally overwhelmed to think he had saved lives.’

Figures from NHS Blood and Transfer showed in the past five years 10 people have died in Portsmouth while waiting for an organ. Meanwhile, 77 people have died in Hampshire over the same period.

Sophie is now backing calls for people to sign up to the register and talk about what they want to happen when they die.

‘It’s important to speak to your family if you want to be an organ donor,’ she added.

‘I can image it being an incredibly difficult decision if you didn’t know your loved ones wishes.

‘It’s an incredible thing to do, we feel very proud to have been part of it and we know dad would have felt the same.’