Fife family backs organ donation campaign and urges people not to leave loved ones in doubt

The family of a Fife woman who became an organ donor in 2020 – transforming the lives of three individuals – have backed a new Scottish Government campaign highlighting the importance of people sharing their donation decision.

By Kevin McRoberts
Friday, 5th August 2022, 3:09 pm
Updated Friday, 5th August 2022, 3:24 pm
Donor family - the Maskells - are backing the new organ and tissue donation campaign, and encouraging everyone to share their decision with their loved ones.
Donor family - the Maskells - are backing the new organ and tissue donation campaign, and encouraging everyone to share their decision with their loved ones.

Gail Maskell suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, aged 51, and her husband and three children were able to honour her decision to be a donor, as they had previously discussed as a family what they would want to happen.

Husband Jon Maskell (56) shared how knowing Gail’s decision eased the process and how her legacy has brought comfort as they continue to come to terms with their loss.

Jon said: “Gail was a grandma, a mum, a wife before anything else – she always put everyone first. She was a PA, and it was a job that suited her perfectly, as she lived her life to help other people, and she’s carried that on in death.

“Organ donation was something we’d all previously discussed and agreed we wanted to happen. We were always of the mindset that it’s not of any use to us after we’re gone, so when the donor nurses came to speak to us we were on the same page as we knew what Gail wanted.

“A friend of mine had a kidney transplant when he was a kid, so we know what an amazing difference it can make to people’s lives.

People don’t know how much organ donation can help you – that’s the bit people always miss. It’s not only helping the recipients, it has also helped me knowing that out of something so bad can come something so good.

“That’s not to say that it’s easy, I’ll admit I had mixed emotions reading the letter about who had received her organs.

Gail Maskell’s husband Jon says it helps knowing something good has come from something so bad.

“At first, I was angry that another family was so happy, but now I keep it in my bedside table and read it when I’m having a hard day.

“There were so many things the team at the hospital did for us that made the experience so personal, like creating a heart trace in a bottle, and giving teddy bears to my grandchildren, and I didn’t realise how much of a difference it would make. The whole process is designed to support you all.”

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Gail’s son Daniel Wallace added: “Becoming an organ and tissue donor was something that was talked about when we were growing up, but never forced upon us.

“When driving licences were renewed, it would come up in conversation but we never dwelled on it. We just knew how we all felt.

“When we were told by the consultants that no more could be done for mum, the specialist nurses spoke to us about organ and tissue donation, and shared that mum had recorded her decision to be a donor.

“The conversation that followed was easy, there was no question. The way it was handled by the nurses and the support given, especially on how to deal with telling my daughter and for my sister, telling my nephew, without a doubt helped the whole process.

“To see the impact our mum has had on other people’s lives is just incredible.

“The first letter we received from a recipient gave us a solace at a time when were coming to terms with what happened.

“It was a hugely bittersweet moment, but it made us so proud, and I don’t think that pride in what my mum has done for others will ever go away.”

NHS Fife is backing the national drive, urging people to register their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and share their decision with family and friends.

The Scottish Government campaign, ‘Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt’, shares the perspective of an NHS Blood and Transplant Specialist Nurse approaching a potential donor family, highlighting the importance of making and sharing your organ and tissue donation decision to ensure loved ones are not left in any doubt about your choice.

Under Scotland’s opt out system of organ and tissue donation, people aged 16 and over have the choice to be a donor, or to opt out of donation.

If people choose to do nothing, it is assumed they agree to be a donor if they die in circumstances where donation is possible, unless they are in a group for whom the law does not apply or donation would be against their views.

Nicola Robertson, Associate Director of Nursing and Chair of the Organ and Tissue Donation Committee at NHS Fife, said: “If a loved one dies in circumstances where organ and tissue donation is a possibility, the role of the Specialist Nurse is to support families through the process.

“A sensitive discussion always takes place between the specialist nurse and the potential donor family. If a person has registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, we share this information with the family to check it was their loved one’s latest view.

“If no decision has been recorded, families are asked if they have any information on their loved one’s views to ensure donation doesn’t proceed if the individual didn’t want it to.

“Organ and tissue donation is an important consideration for anyone but making that decision and sharing it can make it so much easier for your loved ones to ensure it is honoured.”

Minister for Public Health, Women's Health & Sport Maree Todd said: “Organ and tissue donation is a personal decision and everyone has a choice, either to register to be a donor or to opt out.

“Whatever the decision, the Scottish Government is urging everyone to record it on the NHS Organ Donor Register and share that decision with their family and friends.”

People can register their donation decision and find out more at the organ donation website or by calling 0300 123 2323.