A POPULAR foster carer – who became the first person to donate life-saving tissue to a pioneering Barnsley Hospital trial – helped save dozens of ill patients after her end-of-life wish was carried out.
Joan Derbyshire, who had been ill for a couple of weeks with a chest infection, suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for more than a decade and died in January.
The 73-year-old, who fostered more than a dozen children at her home in Athersley South, had signed up to the organ donation register beforehand, subsequently becoming the first tissue donor in the town.
Her daughter, Sarah Derbyshire-Kripp, spoke out about her mum’s selfless story to mark Organ Donation Week.
Sarah, 38, who also lives in Athersley South, said: “My mum loved getting to know everybody.
“She would make cards for everyone’s birthdays and also had a little sausage dog called Betty which she used to walk – that’s how she knew everybody on the estate.
“In January this year, she’d been ill for a couple of weeks with a chest infection.
“She’d had COPD for 12 years and was having ‘rescue packs’ of antibiotics at home, but she didn’t improve.
“We rang the doctor who said she needed to go straight to A and E so she went to Barnsley.
“She was admitted to the acute medical unit before going into the respiratory unit the next day.”
However, it was only a matter of hours before the family got a call from the hospital to say Joan – a great-grandmother of four – was deteriorating and had been given morphine to make her more comfortable.
Sarah and her sisters, Anna and Louise, managed to see their mum shortly before she died.
“It was difficult for us. It hit us like a ton of bricks because mum had only celebrated her 73rd birthday a couple of days before,” Sarah added.
“We’d never discussed organ donation in the family and didn’t know mum was on the donor list.
“When we were approached about it, we decided that if someone else could benefit, then we would do it.
“Mum would have been happy with that – the conversation we had with the donation team wasn’t at all forceful and we made the decision quickly.
“She donated corneas and tissue which could be used to help someone or for research.”
Donated tissue – such as skin, bones and eyes – can save or dramatically improve the lives of many people suffering from illness or injury.
Annually, this provides around 8,500 life-changing implants for 2,600 patients.
Paula Barber, the lead nurse on Barnsley Hospital’s respiratory care unit, said: “Every year hundreds of lives are saved because of donated organs like hearts and kidneys, but it’s not so widely known that donated tissue such as skin, bone and corneas can also save or dramatically improve lives.
“Tissue donation improves quality of life for many people of all ages.
“Transplanted tissues help to repair injuries, can give the gift of sight and movement and even save a life.
“Just one tissue donor can help enhance the lives of up to 75 people.
“The decision to donate can also bring a lot of comfort to families who have just lost their loved one.
“Being involved with this, the generosity of this family to donate their loved one’s corneas, has been both humbling and an amazing experience on the respiratory care unit.”
* You can register to donate organs by visiting organdonation.nhs.uk/register-your-decision.