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Canonbury man: ‘My organ donor wife saved three lives when she died – you can do the same’

PUBLISHED: 08:08 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:08 29 November 2017

Andrew Thomas, husband of Leslie Forbes, with her organ donation award at Clerkenwell’s Priory Church of the Order of St John. Picture: NHS Blood and Transplant

Andrew Thomas, husband of Leslie Forbes, with her organ donation award at Clerkenwell’s Priory Church of the Order of St John. Picture: NHS Blood and Transplant

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A Canonbury man has urged people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register – after his wife won a posthumous award for saving three lives.

Leslie Forbes won a posthumous award for her organ donation, which saved three people's lives. Picture: NHS Blood and Transplant Leslie Forbes won a posthumous award for her organ donation, which saved three people's lives. Picture: NHS Blood and Transplant

Leslie Forbes was a writer, novelist and BBC Radio 3 presenter. She started having seizures out of the blue in 2005. She was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumour, which was removed in 2007. At this point, she and husband Andrew Thomas registered to become organ donors.

Leslie continued to have partial seizures for the rest of her life – though it didn’t stop her working. But in June last year, Leslie had a major seizure and Andrew found her unconscious in their bedroom. The seizure caused her to have a heart attack. It was so severe that she was left braindead.

After discussions with doctors in hospital, Andrew made the heartbreaking decision to switch off her life support machine. She was 63.

Before doctors did so, however, they confirmed Leslie’s status as an organ donor and found blood and tissue matches for some of her organs.

Her kidneys were transplanted into two middle-aged men and her liver was transplanted into an older woman.

Leslie was honoured posthumously at a ceremony at Clerkenwell’s Priory Church of the Order of St John.

“It was quite moving,” Andrew said, “especially with it being a year later. I went for tea and cakes after. Someone from another family asked me if it was difficult being on my own. I said: ‘No, Leslie is still with me.’”

Andrew added: “The whole thing was handled extremely sensitively. It’s quite magical, making a difference even in death. When I was telling Leslie’s friends she had died, I made a point of telling them about the organ donations. They just said: ‘How typical of Leslie, generous to the last.’

“I was really surprised to learn there were only 1,400 organ donors last year. That’s a very small number. It’s very difficult, of course, because the situation where a next of kin is put on the spot about donating is immediately after death or in Leslie’s case, when the switch went off.

“All I can say is, if you can think about doing good out of something very sad, then please do. I would urge anyone. Leslie always said that organs are a box of spare parts that can do real good.”

For more information and to join the register, visit organdonation.nhs.uk

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