Ten thousand organ donors recognised over a decade for saving more than 25,000 lives

New memorial unveiled for all donors

15 September 2023

Ten thousand organ donors, who have saved tens of thousands of lives, have been honoured with an Order of St John (OSJ) Award for Organ Donation, run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant, over the last decade.

Order of St John awardA special event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the posthumous awards, received by an organ donor’s family on their behalf, saw His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, unveil a new memorial dedicated to all organ and tissue donors in the UK.

The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque dedicated to the memory of all organ and tissues donors at an event at the Museum of the Order of St John, in Clerkenwell, London, today [Friday 15 September]. The stone memorial will have a permanent home in the Cloister Garden at the museum where anyone will be able to visit it.

Donor families from across the UK were among those who came together at the event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the awards and remember all donors. One family who have received the Order of St John organ donation award and attended on the day, is the Patel family, from Croydon.

Aari's story

Aari, aged three, became an organ donor in 2016 after an accident at home. His parents Jay and Sina Patel received the Order of St John Award for Organ Donation in 2017. His family recall what his donation and award meant at the time and how they impact today.

AariAari’s dad Jay Patel says: “I remember we were surprised Aari was offered the award, we hadn’t heard of it and we were so touched. It meant people were still thinking of Aari and remembering him and the fact he saved lives, which meant so much.

“I’ll never forget what the ceremony was like, we’d never met another donor family and to be among other people in similar circumstances all receiving the award, was amazing, sad but amazing. It was a pinnacle moment for us, for Aari to be recognised for his selfless sacrifice to save others.

“I still remember when his name was called, my heart was beating so fast. I was so proud to collect Aari’s award, it was emotional.

“We have Aari’s award up at home in his room, it reminds us he has been recognised for what he has done. I always tell people Aari died but we celebrate the fact that he has helped others. We’re so proud of him.

“Aari’s donation brings comfort and joy and is something to celebrate. Some people find it hard to talk to us about Aari because he has died, organ donation and the award allow us to talk about Aari and positively. I struggle to cry now because why am I going to be upset about the amazing thing Aari has done? I can’t be sad, I celebrate Aari, he and his donation are so much a part of us and that feeling is priceless.”

Paul's story

Another donor family who attended today is Odette Ward, from Aberdare, Wales, who was one of the donor families invited to the launch of the awards in 2013, where she receiving the award on her husband Paul’s behalf. He became an organ donor in 2007.

Odette and PaulPaul worked as an operating department practitioner (ODP) in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, going on to lecture then become the deputy head of the training school for ODP at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Paul, a dad of two, born in Sidcup, London, died after a fall in July 2007 aged 38.

Odette, aged 56, says: “We as a family were both surprised and honoured to receive the OSJ award in September 2013.

“We were told at the ceremony that we were the first Welsh family to receive the award, this made us proud that Paul had his wish fulfilled. It was so important for him to have his organs donated if anything happened to him and we’d talked about it.

”We do talk about Paul’s award and I have shown it to many people and explained what the award is about. For us as a family the fact that Paul’s death was not forgotten by so many is such a great comfort.

 “Paul’s donation, this award and also having the opportunity to work as a family representative for Organ Donation in Wales has brought such wonderful feelings of peace and satisfaction to our lives, knowing that his wishes were honoured even at such a difficult time. We know that “in giving we have received” (this is our family saying) and this has helped us to deal with the pain of loss.

“We know that five people have gained life thanks to Paul, that in turn numbers so many more people helped because their families have their loved one with them. Paul believed that everyone deserves a second chance and as his death gave life to others, then it was his way of giving that.”

About the award

Unveiling of memorial to all organ and tissue donors in the UK, with representatives of Order of St John and NHS Blood and TransplantSince 2013 the families of organ donors have been able to accept an award for their loved one, collecting it in person on their behalf at a private ceremony or having it sent to them, to recognise their incredible life-saving gift.

In the last ten years, around 10,000 people (1) have been honoured in this way, and are estimated to have made more than 25,000 organ transplants (2) possible. Around 45,000 people have helped others after their death in the UK since donation began here, and more than 60,000 people are alive today thanks to an organ transplant (3).

The Order of St John entered into partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant leading to the national award to recognise deceased organ donors. Tissue donors are also now recognised with an award which is sent out to their family after donation.

Preserving human life is the fundamental purpose of the Order of St John, and this shared ethos with NHSBT, underpins the award. The posthumous award, displaying the words “add life, give hope” was presented to the first group of families on 18 September 2013.

The tenth anniversary on Monday (18 September) marks the start of Organ Donation Week this year, which runs from 18 to 24 September to raise awareness that everyone needs to confirm their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register to help save more lives.


Article notes

  1. In the last ten years around 15,000 people have donated their organs in the UK, with around two-thirds of their families going on to collect an Order of St John award, run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant, on their behalf
  2. Based on the average number of organs donated and transplants performed from deceased donors in the time period, NHSBT estimates these around 10,000 donors donated around 33,000 organs and enabled around 25,000 transplants.
  3. According to NHSBT records, which go back to the 1970s, there have been at least 44,491 deceased solid organ donors in the UK. The 22/23 Transplant Activity Report states there are around 60,400 people alive today thanks to an organ transplant.