Life-saving legacy of tragic Gareth

SAVED THREE LIVES ... Gareth Phillips' organs saved others' lives.
SAVED THREE LIVES ... Gareth Phillips' organs saved others' lives.

THE family of tragic Gareth Phillips have told of their pride in the son whose death has helped save the lives of three strangers.

Mr Phillips, 29, died in hospital after suffering head injuries at a house party in Hebburn last Saturday.

The Jarrow man donated his organs which were used in three transplants.

His parents and twin sisters had no idea he was an organ donor, but said his decision was a “great comfort” for them and would “keep them strong” in the coming months.

His father, Gary Phillips, a retired policeman who now works as an advisor with the Abu Dhabi police force, said: “We didn’t know Gareth wanted to donate his organs to help others. It was very humbling to hear. We are very proud.

“Gareth was no angel, but he was growing into the kind of son every family would be proud of.

“He was a polite, considerate, respectful person and choosing to be an organ donor proves that. We are all really proud of him.

“The doctors said his heart was too big to donate.

“That is so true. He always had a huge heart.”

Mr Phillips’ pancreas and one of his kidneys went to someone who otherwise have died. His other kidney was also donated to someone and his liver helped save a young mum’s life.

Mr Phillips Snr said: “She is the only one we know much about. She is a 20-year-old mother, who would otherwise would have died. She has a six-month-old child. That gives us great comfort.

“But he has not only saved them, he has let them get on with their lives and perhaps have more children. He has helped future generations as well.” Mr Phillips Snr was in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, when he got a call telling him his son was close to death in an intensive care ward, at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

More than 50 of Gareth’s family, friends and colleagues gathered at the hospital last Monday to say their final goodbyes.

When Mr Phillips got there, along with wife Catherine and twin daughters Emily and Grace, 25, the family had 15 minutes to agree that surgeons could start the process of removing organs for emergency delivery across the country.

He added: “I got on the first flight I could.

“At about 11am on the Monday in hospital, I was faced with what was, in many ways, a beautiful scene.

“Dozens of his mates were by his bed. Grown men inconsolable and in tears.

“It was devastating, but it showed us how much Gareth meant to so many people.

“We were told Gareth was brain dead and doctors wanted to start the organ donor process. We had 15 minutes to agree. That was hard, but we all agreed that this was what he wanted, and we had to honour his wish.

“We left the hospital at 9pm and had a text from a friend saying that everyone had gathered in the Nelson pub. It was packed, but I couldn’t face it.

“It shows that our son and brother was a valuable friend to many people.”

“There’s no way we could thank everyone for their support, we have had hundreds of cards, flowers and messages support from so many people.

“But I want them to know that they have all made a big difference in helping us deal with the tragic loss.”