Max and Keira’s Law: Hornchurch mum ‘thrilled’ after years of campaigning for opt-out organ donation
- Credit: West Ham United
A retired Hornchurch PE teacher, whose son helped save 50 people’s lives, speaks of how the opt-out system “will change everything”.
Yesterday (May 20), a law that sees everyone automatically registered as organ donors came into effect, Max and Keira’s Law. This means that everyone is by default on the list and must opt-out to be off it. And for Lisa Wilson, the day she has been longing for has finally arrived.
Her son Tom, who went to Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, Upminster, died in a tragic freak hockey accident aged 22 in 2015. It was only when she and husband Graham were told that nothing could be done for Tom that they learned he had signed up to become an organ donor.
His organs and tissue saved or significantly improved the lives of up to 50 people. But it only happened because the keen sportsman had signed up while at university.
Now, after years of campaigning, the opt out system for organ donation has been introduced in England.
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Mrs Wilson said: “This will change everything. When Tom was in hospital and we were told nothing could be done, my husband Graham suggested there was something Tom could do for others.
“We were taken aback when we were told he had already signed up a few years earlier. We consented because, after all, Tom had made the decision for us.”
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Graham, a Daily Express sports sub editor and former Romford Recorder journalist, died suddenly just two months after Tom. Spurred on by the events, his widow has become a London ambassador for organ donation and has publicly spoken about the joy of meeting two of the recipients of Tom’s organs with her daughter Pippa, 24.
The family discovered that Gordon, who received Tom’s heart, was a West Ham supporter just like Tom. At the British Transplant Games last summer in Newport which Gordon attended, Lisa listened to her son’s heart beating in Gordon through a stethoscope in the London stadium, a moving moment for everyone.
“Meeting Gordon and hearing his heart beating so loudly was an amazing experience. Even when we met at the huge London Stadium, home of West Ham, for a TV documentary, it was so strong and clear,” said Lisa.
“When we had heard Gordon was a West Ham supporter it made our day because Graham and Tom were supporters and he would have really approved.”
Lisa and Pippa also met two-year-old Fatima who was very unwell when she received part of Tom’s liver. Now, six, she is thriving.
“She captured the hearts of many viewers when we appeared on BBC Breakfast last year,” said Mrs Wilson. “Knowing that Tom has gone on to save and improve the lives of up to 50 people is incredible. His life was not in vain.”
The family have founded a charity, The Tom Wilson Memorial Fund, to promote organ donation.
They were asked to donate Tom’s Baton, a sculpture to Transplant Sport at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games.
Then a similar one was presented to the World Transplant Games in August 2019.
“We are very proud to think Tom’s Baton will be touring the UK and world in tribute to organ donors,” said Mrs Wilson.
“Transplant sport is a wonderful event in which recipients to compete in a variety of sports, something Tom would have loved as he was so sporty.”
Last month Lisa was due to speak to MPs at the Houses of Parliament about the new law and unveil a banner in the foyer of Barts Whitechapel London Hospital to mark the site of a new memorial to organ donors.
“As soon as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted I hope to attend both events, to promote organ donation and ensure as many people as possible know about the fantastic new law change,” said Lisa. “Meanwhile I encourage everyone to have this difficult conversation with their families and loved ones. Organ donation is a wonderful chance to give the ‘Gift of Life’. The most perfect gift of all. After all, Tom did.”
Find out more about the Tom Wilson Memorial Fund at: tomwilsonmemorialfund.co.uk.