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Organ Donation: A Mother's Story by Denise Badger

When she was ten, Sally Badger had a malignant brain tumour which left her with lots of difficulties, she was registered blind and relied upon a guide dog and medication every day; she coped really well, going on to finish school and work as a receptionist in a Medical Centre. 28 years after her initial illness Sally suffered a small bleed on the brain and was bought to UHCW. It turned out; the bleed was due to her previous treatment. Sally remained in hospital for four weeks before she was discharged home.

Sadly, Sally was only at home for two weeks when she suffered a much more serious bleed. She was quickly admitted by ambulance to UHCW, where she was placed onto life support. Sally’s mother, Denise Badger, explained that she learned very quickly that the CT scans did not show promising signs and informed the rest of her family that it was time to come to the hospital to say their goodbyes.

Denise explained how it was extremely painful knowing her daughter was not going to come back round, and she and her other daughter Lucy needed to have a conversation about organ donation– as they knew they would be asked:

“While she was alive, we would sometimes discuss if organ donation would be an option for Sally, given her health conditions and the amount of medication she was on. My response was always ‘I don’t know, Sal, we’ll have to find out’, only we never did…”

The moment came for doctors to ask the family how they felt about organ donation. Initially her father and brother said no, but Denise remembered their previous conversations, and considered her wishes.

“Sally is the most giving person,” she said, “She gave things she had let alone things she didn’t need anymore. This could be the last thing she can give.”

Though it was hard for the family, they agreed that Sally would donate her organs. With the decision made, the family opted to keep Sally on life support until the time of transplant. This maximises the chance of successful donation of organs to recipients. By 9am the following morning, the wheels were in motion to go through with the procedure and they started to prepare. It was during this time that the family had their last moments with Sally, in a side room with transplant nurses.

“They were brilliant”, explained Denise. “They were the key people who kept us most informed, comforted, and answered all of our questions. Everyone on the Ward was extremely empathetic and courteous throughout the whole day. The side room gave us time to be ourselves and emotional in a potentially difficult environment, it’s what we needed.

“Her siblings were so close to her. They were sat next to her the whole time and had it not have been for the nurse encouraging them with a ‘for goodness sake, get in the bed with her and give her cuddle’ my children wouldn’t have dared ask to have that special moment with their sister before saying goodbye. It’s something we’ll never forget.”

Denise admits it was hard to watch her daughter being kept on life support, and as the evening came it became even harder. Organ recipients had been chosen and had arrived to the hospital ready for their transplant; it was at this time that Denise decided to leave the room and she said her goodbyes to her daughter. Nurses promised to call her as soon as she was out of surgery.

“The Nurse called me at around 10am the following day. He said ‘I’ve bathed her, washed her hair, and she looks beautiful’, he was very kind.”

The Organ Donation team offered Denise and her family a memory box for donating Sally’s organs. At first, matter-of-fact farmer Denise and her family didn’t want the token, despite the gesture. Denise accepted to be polite, and left the box untouched for well over a year. Now, when she talks about the box she smiles and explains it has ‘become a comfort’ for her and her family, allowing them to reminisce reading cards and letters that they received for Sally. Family and friends now turn up to the house to read the kind words and memories and take comfort in the decision they made.

Despite the agony of losing a child, or a loved one, Denise urges people to sign up to organ donation. Sally managed to save three people with her liver, heart and lungs. Like so many say, it is of no use to you in the grave and could save a life that means so much, to so many.

“I don’t see it like it’s a part of Sally”, she smiled, “I have Sally. They were merely the things that kept her trucking on.”

If more people could be like Denise and her family, more people would be organ donors and more valuable lives could be saved. UHCW thanks Denise for sharing her story of her wonderful daughter Sally, and hopes it inspires a change in approach to organ donation.  

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