COUNCIL chiefs have given their backing to raising organ donation numbers in South Tyneside after being inspired by a heartbroken mum.
Sharon Eckert has been campaigning tirelessly to encourage people in the borough to become organ donors after launching her ‘In Miley’s Memory’ campaign.
The 38-year-old began her Gazette-supported drive after the death of her baby daughter Miley Turbitt.
The 14-week-old, who suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, died last November when a Europe-wide search for a heart donor failed to find a match in time.
Now, councillors on the local authority’s People Select Committee will look at how the issue of organ donation can be promoted after its latest Town Hall meeting, attended by Ms Eckert and her daughter Yasmin, 19.
A report delivered to the committee revealed organ donation rates in the UK were behind those of some other countries in Europe.
A heartfelt letter was also read out from Caitlin Robertson, nine, whose late father Gary helped save the lives of four people by donating organs after his death.
Chairman of the Select Committee Ernest Gibson said: “Miley’s family has shown immense bravery and courage in launching this campaign which highlights such an important issue.
“I have given my full support from the start to this campaign and as chair of the People Select Committee I am glad, as a committee, working with South Tyneside PCT, we are now looking at various ways we can help to increase awareness of organ donation and the need for organ donors to let their families know of their wishes.”
Ms Eckert, from Westmorland Road, South Shields, said: “I had no idea when I went into the meeting just how positive a reaction the campaign has received.
“I am really pleased that the campaign is getting taken notice of, as it gives us, as a family, hope that we are making a difference to people’s lives.”
Coun Allan West, lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “The campaign is a valuable opportunity to help raise awareness of the importance of organ donation generally but in particular among family members, by asking potential donors to ensure their family is aware of their wishes.
“We are looking to support the campaign in many different ways including displaying details about organ donation in the Town Hall’s canteen. This way, our staff are given the opportunity to learn about the various methods and to help pass on the message to friends and family.”
Alice Wiseman, public health specialist for children at South Tyneside Primary Care Trust said: “The ‘In Miley’s Memory’ campaign is a heartening way of raising the profile of organ donation and for the community to unite in helping to save young lives. “