Amazing Elaine: A family who said 'yes' to donation

Elaine Myers was a force of nature: elegant, kind, funny, gentle, selfless, thoughtful, a loving mother, a doting wife, a best friend, soulmate and a truly remarkable woman with a beautiful soul, who only ever saw the good in people.

 
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#AmazingElaine

In August 2018, Elaine’s life was tragically cut short by a fatal brain haemorrhage. Yet, in their moment of complete loss and despair, Elaine’s husband and two daughters said ‘yes’ to donation, ultimately saving the lives of four people.

 
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On Sunday 26 August 2018, Elaine, 55, was enjoying her bank holiday weekend with her husband Dave and two daughters, Sophie and Vickie at Camper Calling – a family music festival at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire.

The family had woken up to a drizzly morning and decided to go back to the family home for a cooked breakfast. After a relaxed morning of watching Saturday telly and waiting for the rain to stop, the family started to get ready to head back to the festival – but Elaine suddenly fell ill.

Vickie & Sophie: “We started getting ready to go back to the festival and Mom called out to Dad while she was sitting at the bottom of the stairs; she was saying ‘oh I don’t feel right, I’ve got a really bad pain in my head.’  Dad took her to the sofa and then she suddenly went unconscious. She wasn’t well, so we called 999 and kept her comfortable in the recovery position and making sure her airways were clear. She came around for a couple of seconds and I remember seeing her and thinking ‘whatever has happened, it’s bad, something serious has happened but what’s done is done now, and let’s get her to the hospital.’ She tried to sit up and we said ‘you’re okay, you’re okay, lie down, you’re okay but something’s happened and people will be here in a minute to help you.’ We told her we love her and then she went back under.”

The paramedics arrived within minutes and took Elaine straight into hospital, where the family were taken aside by the doctors in A&E and told that they believed she had suffered a brain haemorrhage.  Unfortunately it was immediately clear that the damage had been “catastrophic”.

Vickie: “When the Doctors told us, they were very gentle about it – we were convinced it would just be a matter of how bad is she going to be now and started to think ahead about what the future may hold; how would she communicate, how many carers we would need, would we have to stop working to look after her – it was never an option that she was going to go.”

After completing a number of tests to try and wake Elaine up, it became clear that she had suffered an internal bleed inside her brain called ‘coning’, where the pressure of the haemorrhage had pushed her brain into the brain stem with devastating consequences that meant Elaine wouldn’t be able to wake up. She had had no previous symptoms and it could never have been detected before happening; it was just a freak, unexpected trauma. 

Sophie & Vickie: “Once they had confirmed that she was no longer with us, we all went in to see her and we said to Dad, ‘I’m so sorry to say this but we have got to talk about organ donation. We’ve got to, she’s perfect.’  A little while later they brought in an Organ Donation Specialist who took their time with us; she listened to everything we had to say and never interrupted us.  There’s no doubt that we were in shock but it was a weirdly nice conversation because we were talking all about her and describing what she was like and how full of life she was – they laughed (and cried) with us and we were able to give them the full picture of exactly who our amazing Mom was. They calmly talked us through everything and ultimately went through the paperwork and began the next steps.

They ran some tests and put her on the national database to search for recipients, and within minutes they had found somebody. Another ten minutes later, they came back and said they’d found another two possible matches, which they said was amazing and didn’t happen very often. Soon there were more, and within a few hours we knew that there were five people that were very high matches, plus another one for her heart. It was so bittersweet - but it was amazing!”

In the end, Elaine was able to donate five organs in total: a gentleman in his fifties received a lung transplant, a gentleman in his twenties received a liver transplant, a gentleman in his fifties received a kidney after spending over four and a half years waiting for a transplant, a lady in her sixties received Elaine’s other kidney after spending two years on the waiting list and her pancreas was donated to a research programme.

Sophie: “During the hours we got to spend with Mom while they contacted all the recipients around the country, the Organ Donation Specialist asked us if we wanted to create any keepsakes. At first we weren’t sure because everything felt so wrong, but she helped us take a lock of Mom’s hair and even a handprint. These items are now so precious to us and her handprint takes pride of place in our families’ homes. Those moments we spent together have become some of the most special memories to look back on and I will hold in my heart forever. 

“The Organ Donation Specialist never left Mom’s side, even during her operation. They promised to hold her hand and, after we had left the hospital, they even called us in the middle of the night to explain what had happened and how successful it had been – it was just like any other operation, just this time Mom wasn’t going to come home.” 

Vickie: “I remember in the first couple of weeks thinking ‘I pray to God that this is the worst thing that we ever go through in our lives but there are people out there that are now having the best days of their lives; families just as lovely as ours are that are celebrating, all because of Mom.’ While we were making phone calls to explain to our family that she had gone, these families were making calls to say, ‘oh my God, this has just changed our lives – we’re going to have another chance.’”

Now, whilst Dave, Sophie and Vickie continue their lives with Elaine’s memory etched deep into their hearts, their selfless decision was made simpler by knowing how passionate Elaine had been to share her wishes with her family before her sudden passing.

Sophie: “I think if we had said no in the moment, if we hadn’t have been sure of what she wanted, it would be a huge regret now. When we tell our story to people, it’s not a happy ending but it is uplifting.  We don’t tell our story about how we had this awful tragedy where Mom died, and then put a full-stop at the end. That’s not where our story ends. We are able to add this tiny little comma where we take a deep breath, carry on and we say, ‘but this is what we did, this is what she did…’ There are four people out there who are properly living now because of Mom. They’re not just surviving anymore, they’re living – and that’s really comforting to know.”

Elaine Myers was genuinely loved by so many people; she took the time to get to know everybody she spoke to and she stood out in the local community for her kindness. Now her memory lives on in the lives of not just her loving husband Dave, her sensational daughters Sophie and Vickie and all her friends and family, but in the lives of the four people who she was able to give life back to – the ultimate gift you can give.

Vickie: “I am so proud that she gave so many organs. Our final memory is when we followed her down to theatre and I remember thinking ‘this is so wrong, but I am so proud of her’. It’s not just us that made that decision, I’m proud because she made it for us, and she made sure that we knew that. We knew that if she was looking down on us, she’d be saying ‘this is right, this is good, girls you’re going to be ok.’  We just couldn’t imagine leaving everything in her without considering the good for others, I really can’t imagine living the rest of our lives regretting that we could have helped someone.”

Following the tragic passing of their beloved Mom, the Myers family were hit with more devastating news when their beloved Nan and Elaine’s lovely Mom, Denise, was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer. Denise was very well known throughout the community as a joyful, kind, loving and exceptionally loved character who was regularly mistaken for a youthful woman in her sixties, rather than her actual age of 81.  Just a few months following the loss of their Mom, Vickie and Sophie said goodbye to their beloved Nan within a very short nine-week illness – but not before she made her wishes known that she would like to donate her organs too.

Vickie: “One thing that Nan said to me when she was really poorly was ‘if they can take any of my organs, tell them they can have them all.’ We didn’t have the heart to tell Nan that because of her condition she wouldn’t be able to donate but she still wanted to help people, she wanted to be just like Mom. She had recently reapplied for her driving license and signed up to be an organ donor.  She couldn’t believe how easy it was to sign up and, as if fate would have it, her donor card came through the post just a few days before she passed.  She kept it by her bedside; I’ve never seen anyone so proud.”

Sophie: “Our Nan and Mom are the two biggest female influences in our lives and everything has changed forever since we lost them, but knowing how much they loved us and how much Mom has helped others means we’d have no hesitation to offer our own organs if needed. We wouldn’t wish the losses we’ve had on anyone, but I remember the Organ Donation Specialist telling us at the time that we would find solace in our decision – I didn’t believe her at the time, but I do now.”

In 2018, Dave lost his beautiful wife and Sophie and Vickie lost their wonderful mother, as well as their beloved Nan, Denise. But it’s clear to see by reading their story that the very qualities that made Elaine and Denise shine so brightly are vibrantly reflected in the loving family that surrounded them.

Thank you to Dave, Sophie and Vickie for sharing your story and for being such a vital part of the Save9Lives campaign.

Vickie: “I remember in the first couple of weeks thinking, ‘I pray to God that this is the worst thing that we ever go through in our lives, but there are people that are now having the best days of their lives’. We were making phone calls to say that she had gone, but these families were making calls to say, ‘oh my God, this has just changed our lives – we’re going to have another chance.’”

Now, whilst Dave, Sophie and Vickie continue their lives with Elaine’s memory etched deep into their hearts, their selfless decision was made simpler by knowing how passionate Elaine had been to share her wishes with her family before her sudden passing.

Sophie: “I think if we had said no in the moment, that would be a huge regret now. When we tell our story, it’s not a happy ending – but it’s uplifting. It’s not that we had this awful tragedy and mum died, full-stop. That’s not where our story ends. We have this tiny little comma and then you carry on and you say, ‘but this is what we did’. There are four people out there who are properly living now because of mum. They’re not just surviving anymore, they’re living – and that’s really nice to know.”

Elaine Myers was genuinely loved by so many people; she took the time to get to know everybody she spoke to and she stood out in the local community for her kindness. And now her memory lives on in the lives of not just her loving husband Dave, her sensational daughters Sophie and Vickie and her friends and family, but in the lives of the four people who she was able to give life back to.

Vickie: “I am so proud that she gave so many organs. When we followed her down to theatre, I remember thinking ‘this is so wrong, but I am so proud of her’. Not us for making that decision, because she made it, and she made sure that we knew that. I was so proud of her because I knew that she was doing what she would always have wanted to do. We knew that if she was looking down on us she’d be saying ‘this is right, this is good, you’re going to be ok.’ I just couldn’t imagine leaving everything in her, I really can’t, and just thinking that could have helped someone.”

Following the tragic passing of their beloved mum, the Myers family were hit with more devastating news when their beloved nan and Elaine’s lovely mum, Denise, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nine weeks following the loss of their mum, Vickie and Sophie said goodbye to their beloved nan – but not before she made her wishes known that she would like to donate her organs if she could.

Sophie: “One thing that Nan said to me when she was really poorly was ‘if they can take any of my organs, tell them they can have them all.’ I told Nan that because of her condition she wouldn’t be able to, but she still wanted to help people. All she kept doing when she was poorly was apologising, she kept saying how sorry she was that she was so poorly when we had just lost Mum.”

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In 2018, Dave lost his beautiful wife and Sophie and Vickie lost their wonderful mother, as well as their beloved nan, Denise. But it’s clear to see by reading their story that the very qualities that made Elaine and Denise shine so brightly are vibrantly reflected in the loving family that surrounded them.

Thank you to Dave, Sophie and Vickie for sharing your story and for being such a vital part of the Save9Lives campaign.