'Hero' girl, 10, saves five lives by donating her organs

Friday 15 March 2019

Ella Thatcher

A 10-year-old girl has saved the lives of five other people by donating her heart, kidneys, lungs, liver and pancreas.

Ella Thatcher, from Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex, passed away in early 2018 following a seizure. She had Dravet syndrome, a very rare and severe form of childhood epilepsy.

Ella’s parents, Anna and Mike, decided to donate their daughter’s organs and are encouraging people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Anna, 46, said: “It was the hardest thing because we were just willing her to blink or make a sign but after all the tests we were left in no doubt that she had gone.

“It was a complete shock but I could see that everyone at Evelina London Children’s Hospital had tried their best and we both agreed that her organs should be donated if they were suitable.

“The staff were amazing right from the start. They stroked her hair, spoke to her and kept her warm. A senior nurse who had just finished a night shift even stayed to hold Ella’s hand in the operating theatre so she wasn’t alone.”

Anna, who has two other children, added: “It’s really comforting to know that a bit of her goes on and that other families didn’t have to go through the same thing. Because of Ella, five other families out there never had to plan funerals or miss the person they love.”

Ella’s organs helped to save the lives of two children and three adults.

Anna said: “We received a letter from the child who got her heart and they called Ella a hero – that was amazing.”

Ella’s initials were recently engraved onto a new piece of artwork that honours those who have donated organs and helped save the lives of others.

Titled ‘The Song of the Nightingale’ and made from steel and felt, the artwork was created for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Evelina London, by a former patient and transplant recipient, Ted Harrison.

Anna said: “Although it’s been a year it still feels like yesterday to us so it’s nice to know that people are remembering Ella.

“I hope the new artwork raises awareness of organ donation and that people in the depth of their own grief can see that they can stop someone else going through the same thing by allowing their loved ones’ organs to be donated.”

Artist Ted Harrison unveiled the piece at St Thomas’ Hospital and it was blessed by The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally, who previously worked at St Thomas’ as a nurse.

Ted, who received a kidney transplant almost 30 years ago at Guy’s Hospital, said: “I will be forever grateful to my donor and her family for such an immense gift. The nightingale is the theme of the artwork – not only because of this hospital’s historic links with Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, but also because in nature the nightingale sings a beautiful song of new hope even when the night seems to be at its darkest.”

Samuel Newman, specialist nurse for organ donation at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “There are more than 50,000 people alive today thanks to an organ transplant. This would not have been possible without the generosity and selflessness of thousands of organ donors like Ella, and the bravery of their families. Around 6,000 people are in need of an organ transplant in the UK so it remains as crucial as ever for people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.”

To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and to find out more, visit the organ donation website.

Last updated: March 2022

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