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Bereaved East Lancs parents meet family given new life by transplant
THE parents of a Blackburn man killed in a town centre attack have met a family given new life by their son’s organs.
Adam Rogers, 24, had mentioned his wish to be an organ donor before his sudden death following a single-punch assault.
At his bedside, his parents Pat and Dave made the heart-wrenching decision to ‘try and make something positive’ out of their tragedy, and doctors took their son’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas.
Yesterday in an emotional meeting, the couple were introduced to Mark Smith, who underwent an eight-hour transplant operation to receive one of Adam’s kidneys and his pancreas.
And they also met Mark’s baby daughter Emily, who he said was a ‘gift from God’ only made possible by Adam becoming an organ donor.
Because of strict confidentiality rules around organ donors and their recipients, it is extremely rare for families ever to meet.
But the Lancashire Telegraph was present as Mark, 39, and Adam’s parents came face to face for the first time.
Mark said: “If it hadn’t have been for the transplant, Emily wouldn’t have been born.”
Pat said: “It is like Adam carries on. If not in the physical, then through his spirit with a new family. It’s very, very special.”
Mark was first diagnosed with diabetes aged 14 as he studied for his GCSEs, living with the condition for more than 20 years.
But around Christmas time three years ago, tests showed his kidney was failing and that he may need dialysis.
Despite medication, he went on to the transplant waiting list in December 2008 and was told the average waiting time was 18 months.
Mark was also told that a less well-known double transplant of kidney and pancreas could cure his diabetes, so he decided to take that chance.
Mark, a nursery worker from Harrogate, and wife Caroline, 32, a biomedicine scientist, had always wanted to be parents, but his condition meant they started exploring IVF in 2005.
With dialysis imminent and three failed IVF attempts, it looked as though the couple’s dreams of children and a long life together were quickly evaporating.
But in July 2009, after just seven months on the list, the police knocked on Mark’s door.
He said: “When the police arrived I knew straight away what it was about.”
In the early hours of July 5, peacemaker Adam, of Dukes Brow, had been struck once by a 16-year-old in Northgate, Blackburn.
He fell and hit is head on the pavement and was rushed to hospital where he died.
Adam had ticked an organ donor box on his driver’s licence application when he was 18.
Mark said: “For someone of Adam’s age to have the wherewithal to even be aware that there was a decision to made shows such maturity. I have great respect for him.”
Following the operation Mark spent several days in intensive care, but within weeks felt the benefits of his double transplant.
With the weight of diabetes lifted and dialysis averted, the couple tried again with IVF. On New Year’s Day 2010, Caroline took a home pregnancy test, with ‘euphoric’ results.She said: “After everything we had been through and everything that had gone wrong, now we felt they had all been pieces of the jigsaw and that this was the reason it hadn’t worked before.”
Mark added: “It was a gift for everything we had been through. With no more health worries we could really enjoy it.”
Mark and Pat had exchanged letters but, in adherence to organ donation guidelines, they only discovered small pieces of each other’s story months at a time.
When Pat and Dave heard of Emily’s birth, they were thrilled. Pat said: “It was just a lovely feeling because right from the start when we’d made that decision to follow Adam’s wishes we had wanted something positive to come from it. And this was the gift of life - a new life.
“From the first letter we felt a rapport with Mark and asked if we could use his letter for our Consequences campaign to encourage other young people to register as an organ donor.”
On Tuesday, the families met for the first time. Mark sat underneath a picture of a smiling Adam in the Rogers’ front room, with Emily playing happily nearby.
He said: “It is a very rare thing for people in this situation to meet. It has all happened relatively quickly - which speaks volumes for Pat and Dave.
“A lot of people don’t get in contact at all because of how personal it is. I wanted to express how grateful I was for what they had given me. I wanted to see who Adam was and what he looked like.
“I was very emotional when I read about what happened to Adam. My brother Richard died suddenly aged 21 in a traffic accident in 1995 and they enjoyed similar things in life.
“When I wrote back with the news and a photo of Emily, I wanted Pat and Dave to know of the direct benefit so perhaps they could take some comfort that Adam had brought about another life.
“I said to family and friends ‘How can I ever repay what Adam has given me?'.”
Adam had told his dad Dave he ‘wanted to be of help to somebody else’.
Dave added: “A central part of our message is that we knew what Adam wanted. Other young people should have that same conversation.”
Gary Mills, manager of Padiham Ladies FC, where Adam used to volunteer as a coach, said: "It is nice to see that some good has come from it, it is something positive for the family and it must have been nice for them to meet the person who has benefited.
"When I first heard that Adam wanted to be a donor it didn't surprise me one bit, he was just that kind of person. All he ever wanted to do was to help people.
"He helped us as a volunteer and he had so much time for everybody else, he couldn't do enough for people."
North West transplant co-ordinator Greg Bleakley said: "I've never had a donor family meet the recipients before. Usually a lot of the information is anonymised.
"It's a fantastic tale and the baby is the cherry on top.
"Organ donation will never be the outcome the Rogers family wanted but this result has provided a crumb of comfort and their campaign to get others on the organ donor list is fabulous.
"This young man's life has been transformed by a complete stranger."
According to NHS stats there are currently 8,000 people on the waiting list of which an average of 3 die each day with no suitable donor found. Only 30 per cent of the UK are on the register.
To register visit www. organdonation.nhs.uk or ring the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or text SAVE to 84118.
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