A national memorial paying tribute to the tens of thousands of organ and tissue donors across the UK who have saved and transformed lives is being unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Duke of Gloucester will officially open the memorial at a celebration event attended by hundreds of families of organ and tissue donors and transplant recipients.
The family of Keith Buckley will be among those attending the event. The 74-year-old retired fire officer sadly died in December after falling off a ladder while putting up Christmas lights at his home in Nottingham. He suffered a serious head injury and went on to donate his organs.
His daughter Jane Stubbs, aged 49, who also lives in the city said: “It’s like he is living on, his legacy is still out there. It has helped us knowing that other people have benefitted from Dad's gift. It means something positive and good has come of out such a tragedy.
“I think the memorial is a brilliant idea and the arboretum is a lovely place to come to remember and honour people. It’s important to celebrate all those people who have given something amazing.”
The Donor Family Network’s Gift of Life Memorial honours the donors and their families who proudly made the decision to help others. More than 30,000* people have donated their organs across the UK after their deaths to save lives. Tissue donation, such as corneas, skin, bone, heart valves, also transforms lives and over 15 years more than 31,000** people have become cornea donors and improved the sight of others. Without people being willing to donate their organs and tissue there can be no transplants.
The memorial also recognises the nearly 80,000* patients who have received transplants thanks to the kindness of others, those anxiously waiting for the organ or tissue transplant they need and those who have sadly died before an organ was donated.
There are currently nearly 6,500*** people waiting for a transplant in the UK and more than 16,000* patients have died before receiving the transplant they desperately needed since the introduction of transplantation in the UK in the 1960s. On average, three people die every day in the UK in need of a transplant.
The sculpture is inspired by the logo of the charity behind the memorial, the Donor Family Network, which provides high quality support to organ and tissue donor families and promotes organ and tissue donation. Birmingham artist Julia Hennessy-Priest designed and created a colourful mosaic butterfly representing hope and new life on top of a forget-me-not flower as no donor will ever be forgotten. The bronze base bears the words, Reflection, Recognition, Remembrance.
The event is the culmination of years of fundraising by the Donor Family Network, its members and supporters.
David Nix, chairman of the Donor Family Network, said: “It’s tremendous to be unveiling the Gift of Life Memorial. It has been one of the charity’s dreams to have a national memorial for everyone who lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
“I think so many people will get something out of it. Donation and transplantation has been part of so many people’s lives and will impact on many more people. The sculpture is stunning and is in a lovely spot, between a picnic area and play area, where people can reflect, recognise and remember all those the memorial is for.
“We hope that this is a place where donor families can proudly remember the amazing gift their loved one made as well as a place that people whose lives have been saved by donors can pay tribute to the stranger who helped them.”
Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It is wonderful to celebrate organ and tissue donation and the lives our generous donors help to save or improve. Every donor has given an incredible gift and we know their families take great pride and comfort from knowing their loved one has transformed the lives of others.
“We hope others will be inspired by such generosity and talk to those close to them about donation. By joining the organ donation register and letting others know about your decision, you too can save lives."
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.
The Gift of Life Memorial is now one of more than 300 memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Arboretum is open to the public daily from 9am until 5pm (dusk in winter).
*Figures NHS Blood and Transplant has recorded between 1965 and March 2016
**Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant Tissue Bank 2001-2015. More than 31,000 people have donated corneas. 6,000 people have donated multiple tissue such as corneas (included in the 31,000), bone, skin, heart valves.
***Figures on 24th March 2016. 6,461 patients on the active waiting list for a transplant
Notes to editors