‘Please attend our barn dance... and become an organ donor.’ This is the plea from a village primary school as they organise an evening at which they are hoping for strong support from the community.
Besides promising a fun night at Chipping Village Hall on Saturday, May 20 raising funds for the school’s early years’ playground, organisers, the Friends of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School have another purpose in mind, to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
Not only are they hoping people will come away from the evening with a little more knowledge about organ donation, but that they will seriously consider signing the organ donor register, for the reason is very close to their hearts.
Last September David Gornall, whose son Jonny attended St Mary’s and whose wife Andrea is deputy manager of Chipping Early Learners’ Pre-School, had a second kidney transplant, the live organ donated by his sister.
Two months later, 16-year-old Stephanie Robinson who lives next door to the school, received a new kidney from a deceased person.
Both Stephanie and David had been extremely poorly, undergoing dialysis as they awaited their operations, but the transplants have transformed their lives and members of both families will be at the barn dance to tell their stories.
Andrea and Stephanie’s mum Sue also hope to say a few words about the vital work carried out by the organ donor team.
“Until it happens to you, it is something you never, ever think about,” says widow and mother of two Sue, who has witnessed the agony of organ donation from both sides and hopes her story will encourage others to sign up.
She says: “When my husband Mark died seven years ago the family were faced with making a decision in a short, extremely upsetting time. “We were asked if we would like to donate Mark’s organs. He was on life support and doctors said there was nothing else that could be done.”
Sue believes if England had been in the ‘opt-out’ system like Wales is, or had they known Mark’s wishes, it would not have been them having to make that decision at such an “upsetting and emotional time”.
The family decided to donate Mark’s organs and Sue said that had Mark been here today he could probably have been a live donor.
Unknown to the family, Stephanie had been suffering from a genetic kidney condition which came to light two years ago following a problem with her knees.
Stephanie’s health deteriorated and she was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and ended up having to start dialysis in March last year, awaiting a transplant.
But the problems didn’t stop there and Sue recalls: “It was a very stressful time and still is in some ways.
“We were desperate, you are just waiting and hoping for that right kidney match to come along...
“You take your life for granted and you don’t realise what other people are going through and the illness they suffer until it happens to you...
“The situation impacts greatly on everybody’s lives. You can’t plan anything and your lives are put on hold.”
But after the operation “the difference is quite quick” says Sue.
Stephanie can now enjoy the life of a normal teenager and while not 100 per cent, Sue describes her as “a different girl”. She is back studying and looking forward to her GCSEs at Longridge High School, after missing several months.
Andrea reiterates it is a very hard journey for everyone, saying: “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially children.”
The mum of two recalls her Longrige based family watching 49-year-old David’s health start to deteriorate five years ago.
David, who works in the family’s plant operators’ business, had undergone a kidney transplant from a deceased donor when he was 20 and the donated organ was starting to fail.
She says: “David is checked every six months and in July 2015 the consultant advised us to cancel our holiday.”
He, too, went on dialysis and the family were asked if there was anyone who would like to be tested as a possible donor, his sister Angela Sayle coming back as a perfect match.
It took 11 months before the operation could go-ahead at the Royal Manchester Hospital and, like Stephanie, Andrea says David was so much better within days.
She says: “It is like a big weight has been lifted. We can get on with our lives and have booked a holiday. We are just like normal again. All that stress has been lifted. The stress and the worry is horrible.”
“But how can you repay someone?” asks Andrea.
She says Angela said she could not have lived with herself if she had not donated he kidney, adding: “I always say to her you are amazing..
“She saved his life, but she doesn’t like fuss.”
Both Andrea and Sue would like to see England on the opt-out scheme, but until that day they would like to urge people to sign the donor register.
“All it takes is one telephone call - 0300 123 23230 - or go on the website NHS Organ Donation,” adds Sue.
St Mary’s headteacher, Mary Morris says the school “is very proud to support and promote” the cause of organ donation at the barn dance. Her sister, Dr Chrissie Hunt will be playing the fiddle in the band alongside David Hunt, her husband, on guitar.
Mrs Morris’ family have also experienced organ donation in both receiving and donating so says this cause is “very close to all their hearts”.
Parents and friends are thanked for all their support in sending in raffle prizes for this event.
“The community of Chipping and surrounding areas are invited to come along and have fun,” she added.
The barn dance is from 7pm to 11pm with live music from ceilidh band Common Ground and tickets are £7 including a hot pot supper made by the Cobbled Corner Cafe. They are available from St Mary’s School (01995 61367), Longridge Post Office and Chipping’s two village shops.