Saturday 16 December 2017

Teenage girl who died of brain aneurysm saved record number of lives by donating organs

Jane Kirby

A 13-year-old girl who died of a brain aneurysm has helped eight different people through organ donation - the highest number on record, experts said.

NHS Blood and Transplant data shows that Jemima Layzell, who died in March 2012 at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, is the only recorded donor in the UK whose solid organs have been transplanted into eight different people.

The discovery was made after staff began trawling records for donors who had helped the most people.

A typical donation usually results in 2.6 transplants.

Jemima, from Horton in Somerset, was a pupil at Taunton School. She collapsed as her family prepared a party for her mother's 38th birthday. She died four days later.

In total, eight of her organs were donated - her heart, small bowel, pancreas, both kidneys, both lungs, and her liver was split and transplanted into two people.

The eight different recipients included five children from different parts of the country.

Her mother, Sophy Layzell, 43, a drama tutor, said: "We knew Jemima was willing to be a donor following a conversation about it a couple of weeks before her unexpected death.

"The conversation was prompted by the death of someone we knew in a crash.

"They were on the register but their organs couldn't be donated because of the circumstances of their death.

"Jemima had never heard of organ donation before and found it a little bit unsettling but totally understood the importance of it.

"We found the decision to donate Jemima's organs hard but we both felt it was right and we knew she was in favour of donation.

"We had no idea Jemima was the only person whose organs were transplanted into eight different people until NHS Blood and Transplant told us.

"Everyone wants their child to be special and unique and this among other things makes us very proud."

Jemima's father, Harvey Layzell, 49, the managing director of a building firm, had initially felt unsure about donating her heart.

Mrs Layzell said: "Shortly after Jemima died, we watched a programme about children awaiting heart transplants and being fitted with Berlin Hearts in Great Ormond Street Hospital.

"It affirmed for us that saying 'no' would have been denying eight other people the chance for life, especially over Jemima's heart, which Harvey had felt uncomfortable about donating at the time.

"We feel it's very important for families to talk about organ donation. Every parent's instinct is to say no, as we are programmed to protect our child. It's only with prior knowledge of Jemima's agreement that we were able to say yes.

"Jemima was lovely - clever, funny, compassionate and creative - and we feel sure she would be very proud of her legacy."

According to NHS Blood and Transplant, 457 people died waiting for a transplant last year, including 14 children.

There are currently 6,414 people on the transplant waiting list, including 176 children.

Anthony Clarkson, NHS Blood and Transplant's assistant director of organ donation and transplantation, said: "Every donor is special and Jemima's unique story shows the extraordinary difference a few words can make.

"Hundreds of people are still dying unnecessarily waiting for a transplant because too many families say no to organ donation.

"Please tell your family you want to donate, and if you are unsure, ask yourself: if you needed a transplant would you accept one? If so, shouldn't you be prepared to donate?"

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