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'A woman has our daughter's lungs and four boys have the rest of her organs'

Nevaeh Gale-Spollen was just weeks away from her 10th brithday when she died from a brain haemorrhage.

IMG_20170508_111959 Emmett and Crystal Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

IT’S A CONVERSATION people are often encouraged to have, but it’s a difficult one.

In the event of your death, would you like your organs to be donated if possible?

Many families agree to have their deceased loved one’s organs donated to help other people live, but some feel uncomfortable with making that call at a very difficult time.

Nevaeh Gale-Spollen was just weeks away from her 10th birthday when she died in November 2014. Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backwards, was born on Christmas Day 2004.

Her parents, Crystal and Emmett, who are from Dublin, spoke to TheJournal.ie about why they donated her organs.

Nevaeh-Spollen Nevaeh Source: Gale-Spollen family

Crystal recalls: “Our daughter Nevaeh, she passed away when she was nine in November 2014. She had a massive brain haemorrhage but, thanks to neighbours and friends, they resuscitated her and we got to spend her last few days with her in hospital.

“Of course, we were asked the question, would we donate Nevaeh’s organs, and there was no hesitation because it’s something I’m very passionate about.

Three weeks beforehand, Nevaeh had found my organ donation card and asked about it, and I explained to her what it was for and what everything meant and how you could save somebody and help other people live, so she was fascinated by it.

“She was so grown up, she was so understanding, she was so open-minded and she just found it all fascinating. When we were asked I knew straight away that there’d be no hesitation because she was fascinated by it and Nevaeh loved helping other children.”

The couple haven’t met any of the people who received Nevaeh’s organs, but have been told all the operations were successful. Crystal says:

We haven’t met anybody but we know that a woman received her lungs and four little boys received the rest of her organs. And they all took straight away, they’re all doing amazingly, from the last time we heard they were all doing fantastic – five lives. Five other families get to spend Christmas and their birthdays together, and this is what it’s all about.

Emmett adds: “It’s not every day that you get to save five people’s lives or your little girl gets to save so many people’s lives. When we found out then that five of them took and that they’re all doing well, it’s great.

“It’s changed a lot of people’s opinions on organ donation … A lot of friends and family now are donors because of the outcome of it, when she donated her organs everyone starting signing up for it.”

‘Think of the other family’ 

For anyone who may find themselves in the difficult situation of having to decide if their loved one’s organs should be donated, Crystal advises: “Don’t look at it as giving away a part of your child, somebody’s helping keep part of your child alive and your child is helping keep somebody else alive.

This person will always carry a piece of your child, your mother, your brother, your sister, your auntie, your uncle with them.

“Every time you feel down or you worry did you do the right thing, just think about this other person’s family … they will obviously benefit and they’ll spend many happy days together.

“The family gets to see the person that was so sick, their son or their daughter, gets to see them smile, gets to see them go to school, you know, the smallest of things.”

90510826 The couple with Minister Harris yesterday

Crystal and Emmett have three other children – daughters Alannah (seven) and Sarah (six), and one-year-old son Logan, who had open heart surgery last year.

“They’re brilliant, doing really, really well. Logan had open heart surgery in September but he’s doing amazing. They’re keeping us busy,” Crystal says.

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The couple were speaking at the opening of Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland’s (ODTI) new headquarters on Temple Street in Dublin city yesterday.

Opt-out system

At the same event, Health Minister Simon Harris said: ”Donating your organs is the most selfless act that anybody can actually do … It really is the gift of life.”

Harris said he hopes legislation on introducing an opt-out organ donation system will be passed by the Oireachtas later this year, with a view to it being enacted in 2018.

The ‘soft opt-out’ system would still leave the final say about organ donation with the deceased’s family.

“It is important that ultimately the family always has the final say in relation to the next of kin and I think that’s right and proper.

“But [a soft opt-out system] also makes it easier for a family relative to make what can be a difficult decision at a vulnerable time if they know the wishes of their deceased relative,” Harris said.

Organ donor cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 1890 543 639 (lo-call) or by texting the word DONOR to 50050 (free). More information can be read here. People can also download the IKA’s digital donor card here.

Read: ‘You can’t take your organs with you’: Harris to bring in opt-out system next year

Read: ‘After the transplant, I looked in the mirror and my eyes weren’t yellow anymore, they were white’

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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