The Maskell Family

The Maskell family highlight the importance of sharing your donation decision with loved ones following the loss of their beloved wife and mum.

The Maskell family have highlighted the importance of sharing your donation decision with loved ones, following the loss of their beloved wife and mum Gail in October 2020.

After a sudden cardiac arrest, Gail, 51, from Fife, was rushed to hospital where she spent a week on life support. She went on to become an organ donor, transforming the lives of three people on the waiting list – something both the family admit has continued to bring them comfort as they come to terms with their loss.

Talking about how the donation journey has helped their family, husband Jon, 56, said:

“Gail was a gran, a mum, a wife before anything else – she always put everyone first. She was a PA, and it was a job that suited her perfectly, as she lived her life to help other people, and she’s carried that on in death.

“People don’t know how much organ donation can help you – that’s the bit people always miss. It’s not only helping the recipients, it has also helped me knowing that out of something so bad can come something so good.

“That’s not to say that it’s easy, I’ll admit I had mixed emotions reading the letter about who had received her organs. At first, I was angry that another family was so happy, but now I keep it in my bedside table and read it when I’m having a hard day.

“There were so many things the team at the hospital did for us, that made the experience so personal and I didn’t realise how much of a difference it would make. The teddy bears we were given, gave the kids a little bit to hang onto. My grandson and granddaughter had an argument as they got their teddies muddled up, and only they could tell the difference, but to them that’s their grandma. The team also recommended some books which we bought the kids, and it has all really helped. The whole process is designed to support you all.”

Speaking about the importance of sharing your donation decision, Jon said:

“Organ donation was something we’d all previously discussed and  agreed we wanted to happen. We were always of the mindset that it’s not of any use to us after we’re gone, so when the donor nurses came to speak to us we were on the same page as we knew what Gail  wanted. A friend of mine had a kidney transplant when he was a kid, so we know what an amazing difference it can make to people’s lives.”

Daughter, Steph, 28, said:

“Although that was one of the worst days of our family’s lives, we made it one of the best days of another family’s life. And this gave us comfort as we were all leaving the hospital incredibly sad, we knew that three other families were on their way to the hospital really happy.

“Before going through this, there’s so many things we didn’t realise the organ donation team do, like creating a heart trace in a bottle, or the teddy bears for the kids. It’s actually these extra things that mean the most. Half the family now have mum’s heart trace tattooed, my niece and nephew don’t let go of the teddy bears, and dad’s doesn’t leave his bedside.

“We were told that one of the people who received her organs was quite young, and obviously I’m happy she was able to help anyone, but I think knowing that she was able to transform a young person’s life is something mum would have been really happy to know about.  They have also saved her heart valves to use in the future, and when I think about all these things, I know mum would have been so proud. She’d have told everyone about what she was doing, so we’ll just have to do that for her!”

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