‘It’s so important you tell family of your organ donation wishes’ says mother of daughter who died from severe asthma attack


Kate Hatherell was out with friends from work a year ago when she suffered an asthma attack.

It struck suddenly and escalated inexorably. The odds should have been in her favour – she worked at King’s College Hospital and her friends did too, and the group was close to its accident and emergency ward.

But the attack was so severe, the proximity of some of the world’s leading medics was not enough to save the precarious life of the vivacious 31-year-old.

But Kate had long known that if she was taken, she wanted her own body to be a part of helping someone else live a fuller life.

She had joined the organ donor register at the age of 17. She had worked in the hospital’s liver team.

Her family knew that, if she was taken from them, she would have wanted to donate her organs for those in need.  So when they had to say goodbye to her, they agreed to the King’s liver team co-ordinator donating her organs – her heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys.

Kate’s mother, Nicky Hatherell, said: “Kate lived life to the full; she’s the only person we have ever known to be able to pack 25 hours into 24 on a regular basis.

She died as she lived – by giving generously. “Before working at King’s, she worked with me at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and she saw many people she came to think of as friends die waiting for transplants.

We knew that she would have wanted to give her organs and were proud to discover that she had registered herself as a donor.

“It’s so important to tell your family about your wishes should you die, as they’re the ones who have to make the decision when it comes down to it.”

Kate, who worked at King’s in an array of different roles, most recently as a multidisciplinary team co-ordinator, was cared for in the intensive care unit at King’s before she died.

Nicky added: “We are so glad that she was near King’s when it happened. It meant that all her friends and colleagues at the hospital were able to say their goodbyes.

It was such a privilege to see so many people by her bedside – from top management and consultants right down through the ranks – almost 100 people came through to see her.”

This week is Organ Donation Week – a national NHS campaign which asks people to talk to their families about organ donation to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by a transplant.

Mark Whitehouse, a specialist nurse for organ donation at King’s, who was involved in the organ donation process with Kate’s family, said: “We really need more people in London to have these conversations with their families and talk about organ donation, so that we can increase the number of lifesaving transplants.”

Nationally, three people die every day in need of an organ, and there are around 1,255 in London on the transplant waiting list.

Families will always be approached about donation if a loved one can donate their organs. Knowing what their loved one would have wanted can help families make a decision at a difficult time.

Currently around 2.6million people in London are on the NHS Organ Donor Register but it is vital that people also tell their family they want to donate because families can refuse to consent, even if the person is on the register.

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