Dan and I had chatted over the years about organ donation. My fabulous friend Tracey needed a kidney. She had one failed transplant. Her health slowly declined and eventually she died. She was 38.
My friend and colleague, Margaret, had a kidney transplant too. She was the most vigorously alive person I knew. She worked that new organ (and every other bit of her body) for all it was worth. Anyone campaigning for LGBT (as it was in early noughties) rights in Manchester would have known ‘Bes’. She was a natural optimist, accepting cancer treatments and organ transplants with an attitude of ‘If I was a horse they’d take me out and shoot me, but I’m not, so while I’m here I might as well make a difference.’
My friend George’s son had kidney failure too, and in 2013 George made a living donation. His other son came to stay with Dan and me. We looked after him for a week, until he could go home to his recovering brother and dad. The operation was a success and continues to be so.
And Dan knew the story of Aunty Liv’s middle child, who didn’t get the transplant he needed, and whose small grave she visits.
Our conversations, then, were short and to the point.
‘Well, I won’t need any of my bits once I’m dead, so someone else can have them,’ said Dan.
It meant that in hospital, as the doctors confirmed that this was the end of Dan’s life, it was the simplest last wish to grant. Knowing that Dan was able to pass on a gift of life brought immediate comfort for me. It offered a bright thread to grasp at a moment when life was at its most dark and ragged.
There were four recipients. Their stories continue and that means Dan’s does too. I know his gift inspires enormous gratitude in those who have benefited. And Dan’s story remains a vital one. I am hoping to work with Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the NHS Blood & Transplant Organ Donation Team during Organ Donation Week in September. We want to let others know how important organ donation is, and, underneath that, how essential it is to have that conversation with your children. They are more resilient and pragmatic than we think, especially young ones, who often see organ donation as a kind of personal recycling initiative and are on board straight away.
I’m looking forward to telling the world about Dan, and how great his last gift was to everyone whose lives it touched, mine very much included.