This is a difficult post to write. I've had a good cry and I think I can start now.
I've mentioned before that I had a brother. Peter died in 1997, aged 25. I can't believe that after nearly 13 years I still feel his loss so acutely. I suppose time is a healer in that I don't think of him all the time, but when I do it is painful - particularly since I became a parent.
Peter was a remarkable boy. He was born with a rare lung disorder that meant physically he could do very little without going blue and struggling to breathe. Twice, before the age of five, my parents were told that he wouldn't survive the night. I can only begin to imagine what they went through during those long dark nights.
Peter was a fighter. He was determined to go to school, which he attended part time. His friends carried him on their backs when he was tired. He achieved a great deal - he loved life. He learnt to drive, got a job, went to the pub with his mates, chatted up the ladies.
He was in and out of hospital all his life and became progressively weaker. When he was twenty he was put on the waiting list for a heart and lung transplant. In September 1994, when he was twenty two and not at all well, he got the call.
He had his transplant at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex. The photograph above is of Peter sat on his hospital bed, recovering from surgery.
Peter's new lungs came from a boy named Michael. Michael was only seventeen. He died after a fall on a rugby pitch. Luckily his parents were generous and thought of others as they lost their son. Seven of his organs saved five lives.
Peter's heart, which was enlarged but otherwise healthy, was given to a man named Brendan in a domino operation. We met Brendan and it was the strangest thing to think of Peter's heart beating in his chest!
The operation was a success, although the recovery was not straightforward. Peter was determined to get home and get on with his life.
He was a changed man. He grew. He could run, ride a bike and even play football. He made the most of every day. He flew for the first time and had two holidays of a lifetime in New York and New Zealand.
Unfortunately his new lease of life was cut short. Eighteen months after the transplant his body started to reject his new lungs. It was a gradual, but unstoppable decline. The last few months of his life were difficult, but he was allowed to die at home - with dignity.
I held one of Peter's hands, and my Mum held the other, as he faded away. My Dad watched helplessly, shaking his head at the loss of his son.
Throughout his difficult life Peter NEVER complained. He never asked 'why me?'. He had an amazing warmth and sense of humour. I wish he was here now, laughing at me for typing with tears in my eyes.
I've told this difficult story in the hope that it will inspire you to join the (UK) Organ Donor Register. It's simple to sign up, it doesn't take long.
You can also sign up your children. I have.
Make the decision now, while you can do it objectively.
Please tell your family about your decision.
There are so many people, adults and children, waiting for the chance of donor organs.