THE passing of 55 year old Valerie Plant at Naas Hospital prompted her family to donate her organs.
The difficult decision was made by husband Patrick (53), their daughters Naomi (29) and Amy (24) and son-in-law Derek at Valerie’s bedside in Naas Hospital as it became clear she would not recover from a brain haemorrhage.
Valerie died on Valentine’s Day (February 14) - less than three weeks after being brought to the hospital by Patrick.
“She had gone to Belarus in mid-January to raise money for charity and felt unwell before returning home. Shortly after Valerie came home I took her to the hospital. She had a brain haemorrhage and she never really recovered. She died on Valentine’s Day, of all days,” Patrick told the Leinster Leader.
The family live in Manor Kilbride, near Blessington, and are well known locally. Both Naomi and Amy went to primary school in Blessington though their mother was a native of Blackpitts in Dublin 8.
“She was a Liberties girl,” said Patrick.
Valerie’s kidneys went to a woman and a man from Dublin and Cork and one person in the UK received a liver transplant as a result of the donation.
“When it became clear that she would die there was there no debate about it at all and we decided to donate her organs. We dicussed this with Phyllis Cunningham, the transplant coordinator with Beaumont Hospital. People need to be aware that it is a perfectly logical thing to do.
From my own perspective and my family’s we have derived comfort from the fact that we know that three people are living because of Valerie’s massive sacrifice. This means that three families do not have to endure what we have endured. Valerie was an earthy, deep sprited and generous woman and she would have agreed with this 100 percent.”
The family members have also made the decision to do the same thing in the event of their deaths, something he describes as “a given in our household.”
Having had first hand experience of the trauma of sudden bereavement and the follow on difficult decision to donate her organs, Patrick says he will make himself available to anybody who find themselves in similar circumstances.
“I have lived through this from beginning to end and it is an education that no university could provide. In a heartbeat I would speak to a family who find themselves in the same situation.”
Following the operation which took place at Naas Hospital both Valerie’s kidneys were donated, her liver was donated as well as the ventricles surrounding her heart.
The family don’t know who the recipients were but they can contact the donor family through the Transplant Coordination Centre, and one recipient did this.
“We will never meet. It is the policy that you never get to meet them. We can contact them through the coordination centre and that is a huge comfort,” said Patrick.
As they sat by Valerie’s bedside in Naas Hospital, the family decided to start the Valerie Plant Foundation.
“We decided to start this as we sat by her hospital bed. She did charitable work all her life and she focused on children’s charity and this is being set up to honour her memory with a view to continuing her continuing her good work. We took this decision only shortly before she died and it is in the process of being set up.”
Charitable status approval is being sought from State agencies and the VPF will be run on a totally not-for-profit basis and will be totally voluntary. Ultimately the foundation will be run independently of the family.
The VPF can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.