When Mayra Crowe chatted to her son Andrew one autumn morning, she had no idea it would be the last time she heard his voice.
In the space of a few hours her ‘normal’ day ended with the loss of her beloved son.
It’s a scenario all parents dread even the thought of.
But Mayra is sharing her experience to ensure people know how her lovely boy went on to save the lives of nine others.
And how she’s helping launch a University of Dundee booklet encouraging families to talk about organ donation.
Andrew was a promising, fit, 15-year-old playing sport in Arbroath when, tragically, he suffered a brain aneurysm.
By the time Mayra was contacted, he had been taken in an ambulance to Ninewells. And when she reached Ninewells a short time later, he had been pronounced brain dead.
‘It was the longest day of my life’
Despite the shock, she and her family then had to make the difficult decision whether or not to donate his organs and tissue.
Mayra, a senior lecturer in Spanish at University of Dundee, explains: “It’s the worst that can happen to a parent. It was the longest day of my life.
“When Andrew passed we made the decision his organs could be donated. Knowing the kind of person Andrew was, made it feel like the right thing to do.
‘Have you thought about it?’
“But it was very difficult. We were all in a state of shock at the time.
“It was such a stressful situation to be in, sat in that little room, when we were approached and asked – have you thought about it?
“In a way, if you were to have that conversation with your family and express what your wishes are, it would be easier when the time comes.”
After her loss, in October 2010, Mayra kept going for her younger son Stuart.
And then, as tributes flooded in, knowing how much Andrew meant to others and the part he played in saving lives brought her comfort.
‘He was so loved, such a star’
“Andrew was such an adoring child, devoted to his younger brother and was so fit,” Mayra continues.
“He represented Scotland in running and wanted to become a Marine. The cadets used to call him Rambo.
“He was so loved, such a star.
“After his death, there were so many tributes to him. The building where he attended cadets in Brechin was named after him – that was the kind of person he was.
“Afterwards we received a letter letting us know he had saved so many people.
“It was nine in total. To know his heart is still beating in another child is just so good.”
Sharing heartfelt stories
After talking to colleague Professor Chris Murray about her voluntary role as an organ donor ambassador, he suggested creating a comic.
A first edition in 2018 was updated recently to reflect the new ‘opt-out’ legislation on organ donation passed this year.
The comic was written by Mayra, recipients of organ donation, the families of donors, as well as University and NHS staff.
It shares heartfelt stories of patients and families affected by organ and tissue donation.
Mayra adds: “The changes to the law are hugely significant.
“The ‘opt-out’ legislation is a step forward to save the lives of those fortunate to be next on the long organ donor waiting list. I believe it’s very important to be informed in order to make any kind of decision.
“It is rewarding to know The Gift can help families have an open and honest conversation about the decision to donate or not, potentially sparing misunderstanding in very difficult circumstances.”
The Gift is available to download from the University of Dundee website.