THE PROUD parents of a South Tyneside schoolboy who died of a brain tumour a year ago are today are urging others to help give the gift of life – just as their brave son did.
Jack Leggett, from Primrose Avenue, South Shields, was only nine when he lost his battle with the illness, just two months after he was diagnosed, on December 22, 2013.
His mother Susan Clarkson and father Alfie Leggett took the decision to donate their son’s organs, and his lungs, kidney and liver were transplanted into three young people – giving them a vital second chance at life.
Now they are urging other South Tyneside families to sign up for the organ donor register during the season of goodwill, and the anniversary of their much-loved son’s death.
NHS Blood and Transplant is running the Christmas List campaign, to draw attention to the thousands of people who are waiting for a transplant across the UK, and to encourage everyone to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Mr Leggett said: “As a family we thought if we can help somebody suffering we should, because that’s what Jack was like. He would have wanted that. He would have helped anybody.”
Mr Leggett believes organ donation should be mandatory – with people having to opt out of the scheme.
He said: “I do believe it should be mandatory. Everyone I have spoken to is in favour of organ donation. I think it is just that people don’t get around to signing up.
“I can understand some parents may not like the idea of their child or sister or brother or parents’ organs being removed, but I know Jack was the kind of boy who would’ve wanted to help someone else.”
The family say Jack’s death was “the hardest thing to go through”, but they take comfort from the fact that his death has not been in vain, with his legacy of giving the gift of life to other ill youngsters.
Mr Leggettt said: “At the end of the day you have to think of the other people. They are now going to live on, and Jack is going to live on in them.
“I got a letter off one of the recipients. They said they can’t understand how much pain we are going through, but they thanked us from the bottom of their heart. Getting a letter like that makes the decision all worthwhile.”
The family are now trying to get through the holiday season as best as they can – to give a good Christmas to twin sons James and Thomas.
Alfie added: “It doesn’t get any easier. We will try to make Christmas as normal as possible for the children.”
New figures show 11 patients in Tyne and Wear have died while on the transplant waiting list this year, and their families will be facing Christmas without them.
Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation service, said: “Every year thousands of patients on the waiting list in Tyne and Wear, and around the country, have a Christmas clouded with anxiety and uncertainty.
“Quite simply, there is a shortage of donated organs but if more families agreed to donate a loved one’s organs, more people would get the transplants they need.”
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk, call 0300 123 23 23 or text SAVE to 62323. Once you’ve signed up tell those closest to you that you want to donate.