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Organ donation ‘a real legacy to leave', campaigners say

Karis May Darling, a talented young performer who died at the age of 12, as her family have spoken of how organ donation provided them with some comfort in the midst of their grief. Picture by NHS Blood and Transplant/Press Association 
Jack Hardy and Harriet Line, Press Association

THE family of a talented young performer who died at the age of 12 have spoken of how organ donation provided them with some comfort in the midst of their grief.

Karis May Darling died after suddenly developing meningitis in 2011 - but her organs were used to help five people in desperate need of a transplant.

Speaking at the start of Organ Donation Week, her father John said he found "a light at the end of the tunnel" knowing there were people "enjoying their birthdays and Christmases because of my little girl".

The annual awareness drive comes after figures revealed that only around 1 per cent (5,603) of people who die each year do so in circumstances where their organs could be donated, according to NHS Blood and Transplant.

With some 6,500 people on the waiting list for organs, the health authority urged more families to discuss their wishes for when they die, in a bid to combat a donor shortage.

It is feared that scores of opportunities to use healthy organs are missed because relatives don't know if their loved ones wanted to be a donor before they died.

Mr Darling (50), from Corringham, Essex, spoke of how his daughter - who had been signed to a talent agency for performance and was a promising martial artist - wanted nothing more than to help others.

She supported her mother tirelessly through breast cancer and once insisted on visiting her dementia-suffering grandmother late on New Year's Eve to keep her company.

The youngster contracted an invasive infection which caused her brain to swell, eventually preventing her from breathing for herself.

Mr Darling told the Press Association: "It's never something you discuss with your children, but we started talking to these two nurses and we knew the way Karis was and the way she lived her life, we thought the first thing she would do is put her name in the clear to help other people."

Her organs were donated to five recipients, helping both men and women of various ages - including one woman who received her heart and was subsequently able to attend university.

"The diversity of people she helped was great," her father said.

"That gives you a lot of comfort, knowing that there's generations of other families that are going to benefit from what she's done."

According to an NHS survey, less than half (47 per cent) of families agree to donating their relative's organs if they are unaware of their wishes.

But, the figures showed, 90 per cent of families agree to the procedure if they know the relative they had recently lost wanted to be a donor.

One recipient of donated lungs said that people who would accept a transplant should be willing to give their own organs.

Mother-of-two Natalie Kerr was wheelchair-bound and struggled to breath after developing pulmonary hypertension six years ago.

She said that the months she spent waiting for a call to say she could have a transplant were "scary" - wondering every day if the phone would ring.

When the call finally came through, Ms Kerr had "had enough of being poorly" and "one way or another" wanted it "to be over".

The 34-year-old from Adlington, near Chorley, had the transplant in early 2012 and is now able to "do things that most mums do". She said she was "living proof" that that conversation about donation is "worthwhile and can do so much good".

"I can see how scary it would be to sit down and think about what's going to happen when you die - it is a really touchy subject and I can understand why people don't want to talk about it.

"But I've seen them, on the opposite side, I've seen donor families and the smiles on their faces about how proud they are that their loved ones have saved someone's life. It's a real legacy to leave."

Ms Kerr called on families to talk about donation and said: "I think you need to ask yourself the question: if you needed a transplant, and someone said to you 'you're going to die, you need a transplant' if you're answer is going to be 'yes, I'd have one' then if you're willing to take then you should be willing to give."

As part of NHS Blood and Transplant's efforts to raise awareness of their cause this year - under the slogan "turn an end into a beginning" - many famous British sites featuring the word "end" will undergo a re-branding.

Preston North End football club will temporarily become Preston North Beginning, while Land's End has taken on the new moniker of Land's Beginning.

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