“Daniel was a normal, healthy, happy and very cheeky teenager. He did everything that a boy of his age would do,” she says. “The day of the accident was a Sunday. Daniel, his brother James and James’ girlfriend all came for a roast at tea time then Daniel decided to go back to his dad’s house which was around 10 minutes from us.
“When I got the call from James (about the accident), I raced to the scene. I ran down the road and hugged James and his girlfriend. I then watched as Daniel was put on a stretcher. I was not allowed near him and could only watch as he was trying to sit up and was sick – a sign of a massive head injury. Daniel was stabilised at the scene for what seemed ages. I was not able to go in the ambulance with him – because of his injury he was being quite violent and he had to be sedated.”
When Diane and Daniel’s father reached the hospital, they were taken into a side room and given tea.
“Looking back I can see now how bad it must have been but at that point all I thought was that my son was being treated and he would be made well again. He was being kept unconscious to help stabilise him. The doctor explained that the X-rays showed no other injuries apart from the bang on the side of his head. We were encouraged to let him know we were there as he would still be able to hear us. I’m so thankful that we were told this as those words from us were possibly the last he would hear from his mum and dad.
“We were told he was to be taken for a scan and then to the intensive care unit (ICU). His dad and I were then taken upstairs by a lovely nurse who was not only explaining the ICU but was also looking after us. My legs just seemed to buckle on the walk up there as the shock set in. A senior doctor explained how serious Daniel’s condition was and that he would have to be flown to the mainland for specialist care. I remember hearing him saying he was critical but Daniel was my son and in my head that meant he would be ok.”
Diane recalls seeing Daniel before he was taken away. “My beautiful son (was) covered in tubes but his only visible injury was a black eye. Again, the nurses encouraged us to touch and talk to him – I was so overwhelmed by it all that without them saying it I would not have touched him. As we left the hospital, I watched as Daniel was put into the ambulance to go to the airport.”
Diane and Daniel’s father caught the first flight out and were with Daniel by 9am the following morning. “I remember thinking how cold he felt and I wanted to cover him up. Throughout the day we were updated regularly. Always with us was another nurse or maybe even two. Looking back, I realise that we were being prepared for the worst. I did not or could not believe any of this was happening and just wanted him to wake up,” says Diane.
In the afternoon came the very worst news. “The consultant came in and actually knelt down on the floor in front of me. He asked me if I understood how serious Daniel’s condition was. The consultant was so lovely and took my hand. He said that if Daniel’s heart stopped now they would not be resuscitating him. His words were a shock but I will never forget how kind he was and the way he said it. After this a small incision was made in Daniel’s head and a device was put in to show if there was any brain activity. Late afternoon, we were told that nothing more could be done for Daniel. At this point we were asked about organ donation. All I remember was saying yes.”
The next step was talking with nurses from the organ donation team. “I remember them as being kind. The conversation and decision on which organs to donate was not an awkward one. Organ donation was never something we had ever talked about but without even having the conversation, his dad and I knew that Daniel would have wanted to help others.”
Daniel was pronounced brain dead in the early hours of the morning. His organs were retrieved and he was able to help four people; his heart and valves were used for medical science. The organ donation specialist nurses told Diane that they would be with him in theatre and afterwards. “These two ladies gained my trust in such a short time and I knew that Daniel would be well looked after.”
Diane says that donating Daniel’s organs has helped her because something positive has come out of her terrible loss. “I hope that telling his and my story will help people see how important donation is not just for the recipients but also for the grieving family. I look back to the consultant who asked us and I’m just so grateful he did. His words, “Have you thought about organ donation” were not harsh – it is the reality of what can happen following a loss.”