Family members and friends gathered at St. Peter’s Hospital on Saturday 9th September to remember loved ones who had died and given the gift of life to others by donating their organs and tissues. They were invited to write a personal message on the back of a wooden or paper leaf and then hang it upon the special memory tree sculpture, displayed prominently within the hospital.
They were joined by several members of the Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals team who are passionate supporters and advocates of organ donation; including Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation, Emma Little; Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, Dr Pardeep Gill; Trust Governor and Chair of the Organ Donation Committee, Judith Moore; Lead Chaplain, Laurence Gamlen and Trust Chair, Andy Field.
Chaplain Laurence Gamlen began the event by reflecting on the story of 13 year old Jemima Layzall, which has been widely covered in the media recently. Jemima died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm and had her organs transplanted to eight people – the largest number in the history of the organ donation service.
Laurence said: “Jemima’s parents have spoken of her ‘compassion’ and ‘creativity’ and that really struck a chord with me. Those qualities sit at the centre of organ donation; the compassionate nature of wanting to help others and the creativity of looking to the future to provide something better – in many cases life or an improved quality of life. It’s a unique and special gift and something that those of different faiths and those of none can agree upon – giving organs is one of the most generous acts of humanity possible.”
Trust Chairman Andy Field went on to describe the memory tree and how it is located along the main ‘M1’ corridor of St. Peter’s. He said: “Families have to think about organ donation at one of the most difficult times of their lives and the fact that organs are donated to an unknown recipient makes it even more special. It’s important to the Trust that the memory tree is located in a prominent position for all to see – not only is it testament to the incredible gift given by those patients and their families, but it makes others think about the importance of donation and expressing their wishes.”
Dr Gill echoed this, explaining why it’s important for people to sign up to the organ donation register and discuss their wishes with loved ones. “In my job I’ve had to deal with families facing the sudden death of a loved one in tragic circumstances”, he said, “and thinking about organ donation at this time is hugely difficult. There is no doubt that knowing what that person would have wanted in advance makes that decision a little easier.”
He continued to say there have been eight donors over the past year at St. Peter’s Hospital, which is a good number for a hospital of this size. “We’ve done a lot over the last couple of years to both facilitate and encourage organ and tissue donation and it’s something we are very passionate about and will continue to champion.”
The memory tree event came hot on the heels of National Transplant Week (4th – 10th September) and also a special event for members of the hospital Trust about end-of-life care decisions and organ donation. Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation, Emma Little, said: “Over 80 people attended the members’ event and it was brilliant to have the opportunity to openly discuss what is often perceived as a difficult topic. The more awareness we can raise and the more people who spread the message the better – ultimately the more lives we will be able to save and improve.”
Pictured above from left to right around the Memory Tree: Trust Chair, Andy Field, Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, Dr Pardeep Gill; Trust Governor and Chair of the Organ Donation Committee, Judith Moore; Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation, Emma Little and Lead Chaplain, Laurence Gamlen.