Real Life

My dad gave me the ultimate gift

Jennie Scotcher (42), of Paraparaumu, pays a loving tribute to her organ donor dad, Iain Simpson.

Every year, I stand by the Father’s Day cards wishing I could buy one for my own dad. I look enviously at children playing with their grandfathers and my eyes well up with tears.

oy dad will never play with his granddaughter again. My son will never meet his granddad. I can’t hug my dad and tell him I love him.

Then, I think of a young man who will be a father for the first time this year, and of all the other families who will be enjoying a special day with their fathers and grandfathers because of the wonderful gift my dad gave them – their lives.

Dad was a happy and healthy 59-year-old. He had just celebrated his birthday and visited my husband Rob and I. He had many plans for toys he was going to make his two-year-old granddaughter, Katie, so many adventures he wanted to take her on.

on the morning of 3 July 2000, he got up and complained of a severe headache, was sick and then lay on the bed. Sensing it was serious, oum phoned for an ambulance. “I love you,” she told him.

“I love you, Anne,” he replied. Those were his last words.

As the paramedics shut the doors to the ambulance, oum called me and my sister Mandy and said we needed to come to the hospital now. She knew he would not be coming back.

As soon as he was admitted to hospital, the doctors diagnosed a brain haemorrhage and hooked up Dad to an artificial respirator. They did everything they could, but it was obvious that if the respirator was turned off, he would stop breathing. All the tests carried out confirmed he was braindead.

“Iain carries a donor card,” oum bravely told the doctor. There was silence and the doctor seemed very surprised. He would normally have to ask the family about organ donation – something he told us he found very hard to do.

oum’s bravery was spurred on with the knowledge that Dad had carried a donor card for more than 20 years and was a passionate supporter of organ donation. His wishes had to be carried out.

We were left at Dad’s bedside while the doctor contacted the Transplant Service. Two transplant co-ordinators arrived and then spent over 12 hours looking after us and organising transplant recipients.

All this time, we stayed with Dad. Even though we knew he could not hear us, we talked to him. We each had time alone with him. I stroked his warm, strong arms and told him what a wonderful dad he had been.

“I have had such fun with you,” I said. “You always played with us as children and you never stopped. Just a few months ago we had races down the slides and flying fox. Do you remember? I am so lucky you were my dad. Thank you for being such a good granddad to Katie. Although your time together was too short, I will make sure she knows how much you loved her, and that you thought she was the most special little girl.”

Then the medical team took Dad to the operating theatre where his organs were removed, ready for transplant to sick and dying people across the country.

Numb and heartbroken, we travelled back from the hospital with oum. The worst thing that could happen to us as a family had happened. We had lost our lovely dad.

We made arrangements for his funeral. It was a real celebration of the kind, gentle man he had been. Because she was too young to go, oum made Katie a book called “Special” with lots of pictures of her with Granddad.

We proudly told everyone that five lives had been saved by Dad’s amazing gift. His liver had gone to an 18-year-old girl who had been struck by sudden illness and had only days to live. His lungs had gone to a man in his sixties with a crippling lung disease. His kidneys had gone to men in their forties who had been on dialysis for years. His heart went to a 62-year-old father and grandfather.

Some time after his death, we received a letter from one of the kidney recipients – a policeman who told us he and his family were now able to make plans for the future including a holiday together.

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart and assure you I will do everything in my power to look after the kidney so kindly donated,” he wrote.

Another recipient wrote a long letter telling us what a difference the transplant of Dad’s lungs had made to him, his wife and three sons. We wrote back and have been in contact ever since. He is now a grandfather with two grandchildren – grandchildren he never thought he would see.

His family celebrate Father’s Day with special joy because they know, without the transplant, their father would not be alive.

A new family will be celebrating Father’s Day this year because of the gift of life Dad gave them. The 18-year-old girl who received his liver is expecting her first baby.

Every Father’s Day, I think of my favourite time I spent with Dad when I was a child. oum had sent us to the shops. on the way, we saw a fairground with dodgems and merry-go-rounds. Without saying a word to each other, we stopped at the fair and went on every single ride, shrieking with laughter, before returning home without the shopping we were meant to get.

Sadly, my three-year-old son Finniain never got to meet Dad. We originally named him after his granddad, but I found it too sad to keep saying the name Iain so we changed it to Finniain. He even looks a bit like Dad.

Katie (now 8) has grown up hearing about him and on Father’s Day, she and I will read her “Special” book and remember my dad. I know the families who received organ donations will celebrate how special their dads are, too.

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