Memorial tree says ‘thank you’ to those who gave the gift of life

BRADFORD Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust today (21 Aug) unveiled a new memorial which honours people whose gifts of organ and tissue donation in death have given life to so many others.

Executive directors from the Trust’s Board, alongside intensive care doctors and nurses, gathered on Bradford Royal Infirmary’s main concourse, where a specially-commissioned ‘Tree of Life’ has been erected.

More than 81 lives have been saved over the last year alone thanks to donors and their families consenting to organ donation.

The official launch of the memorial tree comes ahead of Organ Donation Week (7-13 September) which nationally aims to highlight the importance of organ donation and celebrates those who have made the generous gesture and saved lives.

The tree, which represents the metaphor ‘the Autumn of Our Lives’ will serve as a permanent reminder of the donor’s selfless gift. It implies declining health, specifically when a person needs organ donation to continue their life.

The tree is depicted in its autumn state, while the birds – which have been chosen because they are all native to Yorkshire – represent organ donors and depict new life, replacing leaves that have already fallen.

Clinical Lead for Organ Donation and Consultant Anaesthetist, Dr Andy Baker, said: “The Trust wanted to do something to recognise the sacrifice and importance of donors and their families, as well as celebrate the new life breathed into recipients and I am delighted that the tree is now in place as it is a very fitting and lasting memorial.

“Here in Bradford, we will never forget the lives lost and each person who donates their organs and gives the gift of life leaves a permanent mark on every member of staff that they came into contact with. They will never be forgotten.”

Tree of Life

Tree of Life - organ donation memorial

Emmerdale actress Kitty McGeever was waiting for a second transplant but sadly passed away five years ago at Bradford Royal Infirmary before she could receive it. Kitty remarkably then donated her organs to help others.

Kitty’s sister, Caroline Mitchell, said: “The ‘Tree/Gift of Life’ memorial is a beautiful reminder of the generous gift that my sister Kitty and so many thousands of organ donors have made so that someone else may live a happy and healthy life after their death. It feels to me to be the ultimate act of love for a stranger they will never meet.

“The tree and cycle of birth and death felt very fitting and signifies the ongoing life force that continues because of organ donation long after our loved ones pass away.

“We as a family are grateful to Bradford Royal Infirmary for remembering and acknowledging the selfless acts made by so many families and their much loved relatives who have tragically had their lives cut short. It is really very beautiful and life affirming. We sincerely thank you.”

The tree design idea was the brainchild of Jenny Hughes, former Bradford specialist nurse for organ donation, along with Andy and artists Karen and Tony van de Bospoort, of Hospital Art Studio, who worked together to get a suitable memorial.

The Donor Family Network was consulted and was supportive of the memorial tree, alongside the Trust’s organ donation committee chairperson, Malcolm Rogers and committee member Karen Piotr, whose loved ones both made the ultimate sacrifice and donated their organs so that other lives could be saved.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Bryan Gill, said: “Donating an organ is one of the most altruistic actions anyone can do and it’s an absolute privilege for our colleagues to support these patients and their families.

“Our ‘Tree of Life’ serves as a reminder to us all of their gift.”

“Every day someone will die while waiting for a transplant and it is only through the courageous acts of people like this that those waiting have hope.”

Most recent figures show there were nine deceased organ donors at Bradford Royal Infirmary last year who helped save or improve the lives of people desperately in need of a transplant.

The Trust is urging people across the district to tell their families if they want to become donors, in the event that they can be considered for donation. Despite the new ‘opt out’ law coming into effect from May this year, loved ones will still be consulted before donation goes ahead.

Find out more and register your decision by visiting NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and share your decision with your family.

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