Grays woman who saved lives through organ donation praised at award ceremony

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PEOPLE from Essex who saved lives through the gift of organ donation have been posthumously honoured at a moving award ceremony.

They received the Order of St John Award for Organ Donation, run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant, which was given to their families and loved ones on their behalf.

Hundreds of families are receiving the award at regional ceremonies held across the UK in 2019. The awards recognise the 1,619 people who donated their organs after death in 2018, leading to thousands of patients’ lives being saved or transformed.

People recognised at the ceremony included:

Nicola Rolfe, from Grays. The award was accepted on her behalf by her brother and sister David Smallbone and Donna Aylett as well as Mum, Linda Allison and children Kezlee Nairn and Callum Nairn.

Mum Linda said “Nicola was on the organ donor register, we hadn’t discussed organ donation in great detail but we were aware of her thoughts around organ donation and agreed for her to donate.

“Nicola donated both of her kidneys and her heart and lungs. We know that Nicola’s kidneys were received by two different gentlemen who are both doing well. Receiving the award on behalf of Nicola was a lovely proud moment for me and the family. It was a beautiful ceremony and we honoured to be there.”

During 2018, thanks to the generosity of these donors and the support of their families, the number of deceased donors in the UK went up from 1,492 to 1,619 a rise of 8.5%.

Tony Shepherd, Head of County Priory Group Affairs for the Priory of England and the Islands of the Order of St John, said: “We’re delighted to be able to work with NHS Blood and Transplant to run the Organ Donor Awards for a seventh year and to meet the inspirational families attending the ceremonies. Organ donation can clearly save lives and it is a genuine privilege to be able to say thank you to these families, whose loved ones have already donated their organs to save other people’s lives.

“People are still dying every day because some families are not talking about donation. We hope the example set by the organ donors whose lives we are honouring in Essex encourages many others to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. It only takes two minutes to join the millions of other people who want to save lives.”

From spring 2020, the law around organ and tissue donation in England is changing. All adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.*

Organ donation is a most precious gift and adults covered by the change will still have a choice whether they want to be an organ donor and their families will still be involved before organ donation goes ahead.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The pride families feel at these ceremonies is clear to see. Transplant patients tell us that organ donors and their families are heroes. This award is a chance for us all to recognise their bravery and generosity, and their amazing contribution to society.

“More and more people are supporting organ donation but there is still an urgent shortage of donors. We hope these awards will inspire other people in Essex to tell their families they want to save lives. Telling your family that you want to be an organ donor makes things easier at a difficult time. Families tell us donation is a source of comfort and great pride that helps families in their grieving process and we don’t want anyone to miss the opportunity to donate.

“Please join the NHS Organ Donor Register at and tell your family you want to save lives through organ donation.”

The award memento features the organ donation heart logo backed by the Maltese Cross – which is used by the Order of St John – above the words ‘add life, give hope’. The award can be received at a regional ceremony or sent to the family privately. This is the seventh year the awards have been made. They are open to people of all faiths or of no faith.

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