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Mum's plea: become an organ donor

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IN REMEMBRANCE: Elizabeth Bennett with her dog, Snoopy, wears a forget-menot flower, which was on sale throughout Organ Donor Awareness Week.

IN REMEMBRANCE: Elizabeth Bennett with her dog, Snoopy, wears a forget-menot flower, which was on sale throughout Organ Donor Awareness Week.

IN REMEMBRANCE: Elizabeth Bennett with her dog, Snoopy, wears a forget-menot flower, which was on sale throughout Organ Donor Awareness Week.

THEY were desperate days that no mother should have to go through.

But as the life of Paul, her 22-year-son, ebbed away after a tragic fall at work that left him on life support in hospital, Elizabeth Bennett and her husband Aidan came to a fateful decision that in death their son would give life.

Now to highlight the importance of organ donation, Elizabeth, of Moynalty, Co Meath, has shared her story to mark Organ Donor Awareness Week, which has just come to a close.

"I can't express the immense consolation my family has derived from knowing that the loss of our oldest son has not been in vain as he has given the gift of renewed life to seven people," she said.

Paul was a young and doting father to Danielle (now 13) when he met his untimely death after a fall inflicted a fatal head injury in November 2001.

Elizabeth, Aidan and their children – Ann, Bernard and Aideen – made the family decision to donate Paul's organs.

He had just qualified as an electrician with the ESB, and after his death his workmates all decided to carry organ donor cards.

Paul's lungs, liver, heart valves, kidneys and pancreas were donated, with five people receiving life-saving transplants.

His corneas restored the sight to two more people.

Elizabeth said: "There are so many people in Ireland with organ failure who need transplants urgently.

"I would encourage everyone to think about organ donation as it's a wonderful legacy not just for people who are awaiting transplants but for their families also.

"We took great comfort when we received letters from grateful recipients, and that they are saying Masses for their donor, Paul."

Recalling the difficult days following Paul's accident, she went on: "I would like to praise the staff in the intensive care unit at Our Lady's Hospital Navan for all their kindness and sensitivity when they cared for Paul and helped us through this time and the process of donating his organs."

Elizabeth and Aidan have always been blood donors and are now regular platelet donors.

They raise funds for worthy causes and charities including the Irish Kidney Association and Our Lady's Hospital.

The couple continue to spread the word about the importance of organ donation, and Elizabeth has given talks to transition year students in many schools.

Organ Donor Awareness Week, which was fronted by Liveline presenter Joe Duffy, aimed to increase the number of organ donors.

The annual campaign is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by the Irish Donor Network.

It also serves as a fundraising exercise for the association.

Nearly 3, 000 people in Ireland are enjoying extended life away from hospital as a result of receiving donated organs.

More than 600 people are awaiting life-saving transplants of hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and pancreases.

Last year was almost average for the number of deceased organ donors at 78, down from the record of 93 set in 2011, but it was only two off the five-year average of 80 a year.

Thanks to the generosity of 78 deceased donors and their families, 206 transplant operations were carried out in Ireland last year. Three of the people from whom organs came were non heart-beating donors/cardiac death donors, following from the first one the year before.

Applicants for the new format driving licences can now tick a box indicating their willingness to be an organ donor, which is represented by code 115 on the licence.

The Irish Kidney Association is the organisation charged with the promotion and distribution of the organ donor card in Ireland and is celebrating 35 years since its foundation.

Organ donor cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on LoCall 1890 543-639 or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.

It is now possible to store an organ donor card, the "ecard", on smartphones. Simply search for "Donor ECard" at the iPhone Store or Android Market Place.

For further information on organ donation and fund-raising, contact Irish Kidney Association chief executive Mark Murphy on (01) 620-5306 or (087) 257-1235, or see www.ika.ie

Irish Independent