Friday 13 December 2019

'Cal gave them life' - proud parents of 'superhero' young man who saved five lives through organ donation

Catherine and Mark Grimes holding a photograph of their late son Callum (Cal ) Grimes
Catherine and Mark Grimes holding a photograph of their late son Callum (Cal ) Grimes
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

The proud parents of a "superhero" young man whose organs were donated to five people have said, "we're happy those families got the miracle that we prayed for."

Callum 'Cal' Grimes (27) tragically passed away last July, seven months after he was hit by a car near his home in Rush, north County Dublin.

When his parents Mark and Catherine Grimes discovered that he would not survive after 200 days in Beaumont Hospital and 15 operations, they decided to donate his organs to people who needed them.

Mark told "We want to celebrate the life that he gave to five people, Catherine has letters that we received from some of them.

The late Cal Grimes
The late Cal Grimes

"The first one was from a father who didn't think that he would have any more time with his own kids, he wrote to thank us.

"I'm happy that five families got the miracle that we prayed for, it didn't happen for us but he gave them life."

Catherine added that while it was understandably tough, she knew organ donation was what Callum would have wanted.

"Cal had spoken to me about it and said he wanted to donate his organs, he said, 'Ma, they're no good to me six feet under but give them to someone who needs them.'

"You don't want to even think about it but as time moves on you have to put your own feelings aside and think about what Callum would have wanted.

"He was always a superhero to me but the fact that he saved five lives is amazing."

Callum (Cal) Grimes who died following a road accident in Rush
Callum (Cal) Grimes who died following a road accident in Rush

Speaking publicly for the first time about Callum's death this week, Mark and Catherine paid tribute to their only son, remembering how he was a talented rapper, poet and chef.

They spoke candidly about his devotion to his long-term girlfriend Aisling McKeown and their travels together, how excited he had been to get a cat just two months before the accident and how warmly he has been remembered by his three sisters, extended family and many friends.

Mark said: "He had been going around with his friends for a long time, they have told me that he was the one they would go to and that he was the one that would make them laugh, he was a loyal friend.

"He walked to a different beat, when his friends played football he was writing poetry or rollerblading, he'd rather be up the mountains ziplining than on a football pitch.

"He just had a different view on life but he stayed really close to all of his friends."

After Callum and Aisling returned from living in Australia together he had been been working in TK Maxx and was training to become a manager.

Callum (Cal) Grimes pictured with his grandmother Eva on the day before the collision
Callum (Cal) Grimes pictured with his grandmother Eva on the day before the collision

Sadly in the early hours of December 27 2016 he was struck by a car while walking home from a night out.

His father explained: "He was out for a few drinks and he was asked to work the next morning so he left early.

"He couldn't get a taxi, he was walking home from Skerries and he was literally yards from the path up to the house when he was hit.

"Cal wasn't a saint, he would stay out at night but the next day Catherine called to say he had still not come home and when I passed the scene he was gone at this stage and there was just a guard sitting there.

"It came on the radio that a young man had been knocked down and I got hairs standing on the back of my neck, I knew something was wrong.

"We were ringing the guards and the hospitals, the guards had been trying to call Catherine's mobile but they had the wrong number, eventually they got my mother's landline and I just saw her go grey."

Callum (Cal) Grimes
Callum (Cal) Grimes

Callum had suffered severe head injuries and within hours he had undergone his first operation.

"He was a warrior, he put up some fight, he had 15 surgeries in 200 days, I reckon he kept with us for seven months to prepare us," Catherine said.

Mark said that there were "glimmers of hope" but after seven long months they knew he was not going to recover and they signed a do not resuscitate form.

Mark, who works as a nurse, said of those last days with Callum: "Before the last operation I didn't want anyone else in his room beforehand, it was just me and Catherine.

"He had to get another operation because his brain had started to swell again, it was one of the few times that we walked down to the theatre with him.

"Catherine told him that he could go to sleep, that he had done enough and I said an Act of Contrition into his ear, I don't know why we did it that day."

Catherine continued to say: "I just knew by him, I just knew his poor body couldn't take any more, I just wanted him to be able to sleep, I think maybe that's what he was waiting for."

Callum survived the operation but he suffered a cardiac arrest during his recovery and passed away.

His family decided to make his funeral a "celebration of his life", they hired a Hummer car to travel to the ceremony in and played his music as they drove through Skerries, mourners were also asked to dress "dapper".

His grieving mother said that the community came together to make it special, saying: "In the funeral home they were saying if there was anything they could do just say, I didn't like the coffins because they were just brown boxes with lids, so I asked if they had any in white and when he said those are for kids, I told him Callum was my kid.

"That was the Saturday and on Monday when we went back they had managed to get me a white coffin, I was gobsmacked, I was absolutely delighted.

"I had asked if they had a Batmobile because he was so big into movies but they obviously didn't, on the day of the funeral my friend, who is an amazing florist, had made a floral arrangement in the shape of the Batman symbol and placed it in the hearse without telling me.

"It was just the ideas of people coming together, it was amazing, it was a great send off."

In the months since his death they said it's clear how many lives Callum touched.

They said that the support they have received from their family, friends, the local community, colleagues, gardai and the hospital staff has been incredible, with Mark saying: "We couldn't have got through this without them all."

Catherine said: "The messages we have gotten from all over the world are absolutely amazing, from people that had met Callum and even from people who haven't met him but had heard of him.

An illustration that a family friend did of Cal Grimes
An illustration that a family friend did of Cal Grimes

"He was well-loved, he didn't have a bad word to say about anyone and nobody had a bad word to say about him, he always had a big grin on his face."

They are hosting a fundraiser on February 24  - the weekend that Callum would have turned 29 - to raise funds for Beaumont Hospital and Organ Donation Ireland.

It will be held in the Strand Bar in Rush and on the night there will be performances by acts that Callum played with, brave volunteers will also get waxed to raise money for the charities and Organ Donor cards will be available.

Mark said: "The money will be raised for the Beaumont Foundation, in particular the Neurology Department and the Adams McConnell Ward, all the staff were amazing, not only did they look after Callum but they looked after us and his sisters."

  • For more information or to donate please visit here and request to donate in memory of Callum Grimes

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