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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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‘I hope there’d be a donor for me, so wanted to do the same’ Sister explains how family made decision after brother’s death

MONTHS after David Awde’s death, his family received a surprise letter in the post: a complete stranger had written to thank them for donating his organs, and to tell them about a child’s life he saved.

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Gave someone else life: David Awde pictured on his 21st birthday – his last. He was killed in a road accident in 2001. His sister Lynsey says, ‘David would have wanted to help other people if he could’

The 21-year-old enjoyed playing rugby and was a vibrant, strong man, happy to spend his days working on the family farm at Melmerby and indulging his passion for John Deere tractors.

His shock death in 2001 was a terrible blow to his parents Trevor and Francis, sister Lynsey and brother Francis, as they not only lost an important cog in the farm, but an adored family member.

Lynsey, 29, describes her brother with a smile in her voice: “Socially David had a lot of friends and was really well-liked.

“He was always a really happy kind of person and an essential part of the family farming business.”

Tragedy struck the close-knit family in the early hours of Tuesday May 29, 2001 – just weeks after the farm was hit by foot and mouth disease.

Aged just 18 at the time, Lynsey recalls: “I was actually out in Penrith [the night of the accident], because it was a bank holiday weekend. I saw him earlier on in the evening, out and about in town.

“I remember seeing him and he gave me a cuddle and he said how much he loved me. It was very bizarre. David didn’t do things like that and I still find it strange to this day.”

The teenager returned home to her parents that night, only for the family to be woken by a phone call in the early hours.

The Awdes were told David had been hit by a vehicle, and they needed to go to the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle.

“You just don’t know what to expect, do you?” Lynsey questions. “My dad is very pessimistic, so I imagine he probably thought the worst of things, but I’m very optimistic.

“He was my big brother. He was a lot bigger than me, very strong and very broad, so in a way I thought he was indestructible.

“It’s only when we saw him that we realised how bad he was.”

David had been struck by a lorry while walking home from Penrith. The accident happened at Carleton Hill on the A686, between Carleton village and Edenhall, near Penrith.

An inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death and the driver was never reported for any traffic offences.

Sadly, David’s head injuries were too severe and he never regained consciousness. Doctors were forced to tell his family that he would not survive.

Bravely, despite their grief, they took the decision to donate David’s organs, and he passed away on Thursday May 31, 2001.

“We just all agreed,” Lynsey explains. “David was always trying to help people throughout his life, and would help anybody with problems.

“He was quite a big lad and when friends had been in trouble he always helped them in one way or another.

“David would have wanted to help other people if he could.”

She continues: “There are certain things you don’t want to donate, but David’s internal organs, well, we just thought why not give somebody else a chance at life?”

In the pragmatic and stoical way so frequently associated with the farming community, the Awde family did not think about that decision again and attempted to carry on life without David.

“I don’t think donating makes it easier, but looking back now, we can know that we did the right thing in giving someone else a chance at life,” Lynsey says. “A lady wrote a letter to us, saying thanks. Some of the valves from David’s heart had been used for her son. It had saved his life.

“We never really thought about the recipients, to be honest. It’s something that happened, and the fact that the letter was sent was just lovely.”

For many, organ donation is a choice made in part because of the ‘everlasting’ memorial to their loved one, but Lynsey’s reasoning is much more straightforward.

“Organ donation is really important, and all my family would be donors as much as we possible could,” she explains.

“If my brother was on the other side of things, I would be crying out for somebody to be a donor for him.

“You have to look at it, that if you were in their shoes, what would you hope somebody was kind enough to do for you?

“I would hope somebody would be a donor for me, so it’s only right to do the same back.”

There are many organs and tissue samples that can be donated, and Lynsey now believes people should donate whatever they can.

“Before David died, we didn’t want any skin or anything taken from him,” she recalls, “but when we saw him afterwards we realised it was not him anyway. You start to think it wouldn’t have really mattered.

“All your memories and whatnot are in your head – David was dead. Afterwards, I did wish we’d given more.”

In the 11 years since David’s death, the family have found a way to continue. For Lynsey, her greatest joy is watching her four-year-old son grow up to resemble the uncle he will never meet.

“I named him David, after my brother,” she says, “and he is very much like him.”

eparsons@cngroup.co.uk

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