Edinburgh mum who donated her daughter's organs to save lives calls on people to discuss organ donation
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A mother whose young daughter’s organs saved the lives of three people and gave another the gift of sight has urged more families to discuss organ donation.
Debbie Young, 53, from Edinburgh, made the courageous decision to donate her daughter’s organs when she died two years ago. Her daughter, Raechel Waterston was just six days away from her 21st birthday when she suffered a fatal seizure. Debbie’s decision in the moments that followed saved and transformed the lives of four other people.
Now, as part of Organ and Tissue Donation Week, Debbie is encouraging others to decide which organs they would donate and speak to their loved ones about their decision.
Debbie, a support worker and mum of four, said: “I wish Raechel was here beside me every single day, but it’s a comfort that I could honour her love of helping others even at the end of her life.
“Raechel had learning difficulties and autism and she was sunshine in human form and she thought everyone was her best friend. She loved bowling, films, wearing costumes and interpretative dance. If everyone was like my daughter, the world would be an amazing place.”
Raechel was rushed to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh after the seizure, but the medical teams confirmed that there was no brain activity. Despite facing the overwhelming loss of her daughter, Debbie bravely asked doctors whether Raechel could become an organ donor.
The specialist nurses in organ donation supported Raechel and her family while transplant teams scanned patient waiting lists across the country to find matching recipients and located three patients who were in desperate need of a transplant.
Raechel’s heart and kidneys saved three people’s lives and her eyes were given to another to help restore their sight. Her lungs were also donated to medical research.
Debbie said: “Raechel would usually sit on my bed while I was getting ready for work. She hadn’t come in which was unusual, so I went into her room and she was lying on the ground unresponsive and her lips and fingers had a blue tinge to them.
“Her favourite film character was Wednesday Addams, so my family and I chose to say goodbye to her on Wednesday at 10pm which was her bedtime. We wished her goodnight and told her we loved her like we usually did. I was the last one to leave the room and it was the hardest thing I ever had to do – to walk away while she was still breathing.”
Two years on, Debbie is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her daughter, but recently wrote a letter to all of Raechel’s organ recipients. Debbie said: “I wrote a letter to tell them a little about my daughter and I warned them that they might start liking High School Musical because she was obsessed with it. I’ve heard from one recipient, and it’s been such a relief knowing that Raechel saved someone’s life.”
Debbie is urging others to consider what organs they would be happy to donate and to ensure that this decision is recorded on the organ donor register and shared with their family.
She said: “I would really encourage everyone to register their organ donor selections online and to speak to their loved ones about this decision. If your death can help someone else to live, why wouldn’t you want to do that? My daughter’s life wasn’t a waste because she saved so many others and I think that’s an incredible feat.”
An NHS Lothian spokesperson said: “It is hugely important that people make the decision to sign up to the organ donor register and then discuss it with their families. Debbie knew right away that her daughter would want to make a difference in her death, just as she had throughout her whole life.
“Although Scotland now has an opt-out policy, it’s still really important to outline what organs you would be happy to donate on the organ donor register. You could help up to nine people if you decide to donate all your organs but having those conversations with your family is crucial.”
For details about organ donation are available here.