The longest night

7 Oct

Sssshhhhh can you hear it? Thats Toby’s heart beating. Its a good strong heart, its full of fun, its loving, caring and giving, its 21 years old. Toby’s not though, he died when he was just 16.

We were enjoying our first day on holiday in Cornwall, a beautiful place called Cadgewith Cove. Toby slipped whilst climbing on rocks, from what we have been told he would have have known nothing. He broke nothing which I still find unbelievable but the blow to his head was catastrophic. However, thanks to the quick thinking of three very dear people Toby was kept going long enough for the air sea rescue to get him to hospital and CT scans to establish brain death. Those first few hours are now a blur and I think I am probably glad they are. We were  prepared for the worse by the first consultant we saw who told us that it looked grim, when Toby went up to ICU were were told that he Toby was brain dead from the impact of the fall. It really matters that the consultant telling us cried as she did so. It left no doubt and gave us complete trust, we knew that they cared ad would have saved Toby is they could.

A couple of years ago Toby’s grandma died, her death prompted us to have discussions about what we would want when we died, of course I thought it was me telling Toby my wishes, I am glad I did not know then just how important that conversation was to be. I remember saying to the hospital staff, you are going to ask about organ donation aren’t you, the answer is yes. I remember how taken aback they were at how easy the decision was. But you see I remembered that conversation with Toby, we were sat in the kitchen and he said very clearly he would want his organs donated. This was therefore his final wish and the last one we could grant.

Toby was declared dead at 6.55pm, The transplant team did not come for his organs until 10am the following morning. That was my longest night. Do you know how rhythmical a life support machine is? All through that night I listened to it, I stroked Toby’s hands and face, I kissed him, I told him how much I loved him. We make painted hand prints, red for Liverpool.It was the hardest night ever, I never wanted it to end but I also needed it to end. I could actually feel my heart gradually breaking.We had to answer loads of questions, all so important in ensuring the best match, there were decisions we had to make that I never thought I would have to. The moral dilemmas you face, all with lots of support and all considering us as well as the potential recipients. Staff worked around us with such respect, keeping Toby’s body safe until the transplant team could get there. They gave us such support, it made us strong enough to get through that night and make Toby’s wishes come true.

Leaving Toby was the worst thing I have ever done in my life, I knew that I would never see him again warm and soft and kissable.

We had such a long drive home, but gosh did we smile when the transplant ambulance drove past us blues and twos going strong. That was my boy going to save the lives of others #tobysgift

Just before Toby’s funeral we had a letter to tell us the difference Toby had made, he had given his heart, his liver, both kidneys and his pancreas. Four families lives were turned around by Toby, they were given back life.

Two months on I still hear it you know, Toby’s heart, it has a soft gentle rhythm. Its a good heart, its strong and kind. I hope it gives a long and happy life to the recipient.

When your child dies so does a big part of you, if Toby had needed a transplant, I would have wanted some other parent or family to make the same decisions that we did. #organdonation #havethediscussion we did and it has given us some comfort and made us very proud.




16 Responses to “The longest night”

  1. adomackno1965 September 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    that is simply one of the most beautiful and possibly the saddest things i’ve ever read. i miss my son every day and he only moved out this year, what must it be like to lose your child….the pain must be unbearable…..

  2. Cole September 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    So well written.. Took me back to the night I found out.

  3. Mark W September 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    I am glad you have been able to write this account so that others can know about Toby and his gift to the world.
    I hope that this blog can be place you will be able to share with others who find themselves in a similar dilemma and I hope they can find strength as you did to turn a tragedy into a triumph for another, who is now able to live a new life because of Toby.

    I have been training now for 6 weeks and when I started I was not able to swim more than half of 25 metre pool without stopping for breath:(
    Today I achieved a personal goal I had set myself and I completed 64 lengths of the pool without stopping in just over 1.5 hours this is equivalent to 1 MILE !!!! 🙂

    I am so grateful to my donor who gave me his lungs and his loved ones who consented to allow his organs to be used.
    They have allowed me to swim again after 10 years without being able to,celebrate my mothers 80th birthday and see my children complete school education and go to college.
    He rescued me from a slow and painful death attached to a oxygen tube.

    He is my hero just like your Toby is!!

  4. Andrea Gaskell September 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    This is so beautiful. I remember Toby in my class at St Mary’s, always keen and curious; always friendly and willing to help. Organ donation truly is a precious gift and it is wonderful to know that Toby’s death has given life to others.
    God Bless x

  5. Victoria Jones September 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Simply beautiful, you as parents are just unbelievable. You are caring and unselfish and am sure Toby is proud to have had parents like you x

  6. Anna Ferguson September 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Bless you. What an inspiring son your Toby is, and what an inspiring family you are. Thank you for sharing your story. We will have the discussion.

  7. ruby hilton September 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    that is so beautiful and sad xxx you are remarkable people x xxxx

  8. Joanne September 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    So much admiration for you and your son. I didn’t know Toby, but I knw many people who did and he is a complete credit to you. God bless xxx

  9. Claire September 23, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    I had so many questions about the night Keeping vigil with you hundreds of miles away through the long hours was so important to me, helped me to begin to say goodbye. I went in to the garden, it was a beautiful morning up here, when I knew he was leaving you, just sending my love and prayers to you and Graham. Thank you with all my heart for sharing this. We have been friends for so long, through so many tough times, and it is a friendship i have total trust in, no matter how often, or little, we speak. I did not think I could love and admire you anymore than I did but your strength, courage and capacity to show so much love and care for others when your own heart is broken is beyond my comprehension. Yours and Toby’s gift is the utlimate expression of this, as will be every person who adds their name to the register because of your encouragement.

  10. Alison October 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I couldn’t read this without shedding tears for you all and Toby, I am taken back at how strong you are all being through this horrible time. I didn’t know Toby very well in college but I can tell from mutual friends how much of an impact he had on so many peoples lives. When I filled out my application for my provisional driving licence it had a box to tick for organ donation and sadly I did not tick because I didn’t feel I could make a decision, but the next opportunity I have I will definitely be allowing my body to be used for organ donation, I have really seen what a beautiful and proud thing it is to do through your heart felt and inspiring story.

  11. Dave Duddle February 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Saw you on Granada reports and I was very touched by your story.

    Keep up the great work xxx

  12. Michelle Elliott March 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    My 11 yr old daughter received her new heart last April, there is not a day goes by when I dont think of her donor family. Thank you for sharing youre thoughts, you truely are an inspiration – Im sure Toby would be very proud of you. We honor Jessica’s donor every day and thank god that they too had the discussion. God bless you, xxxxx

    • tobysgift March 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      Thank you, that was so nice to hear, I hope your daughter has a long and healthy life with her new heart x

  13. Victoria von Witt April 25, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    So sad but I’m glad I have made my wishes clear already to my family! Not sure how much use the ancient organs will be but you never know!

  14. eleanor gallagher June 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    What a beautifully written piece. Our son was lucky enough to get a new heart in 2003 . I often wonder if his donor family have any idea how much we appreciate their bravery and generosity.

  15. Shirley Scholes October 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Sat feeling sorry for myself when I read this moving article. What a waste of the life I have been given. May your grief become easier to bear.

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