Belfast Telegraph

Transplant tot at donor's grave as athletes compete

By Lisa Smyth

When Mark and Joanne Elliott made the brave decision to donate their son's organs they saved the lives of five complete strangers.

Among them was little Riley Greenwood, from Manchester, who suffered from a rare kidney condition and was in desperate need of a new kidney and liver.

Mark Elliott was just 19 when he lost his life to meningitis last November and his parents made the selfless gesture to donate his organs to save others.

Now, nine months on from Riley's double transplant, the four-year-old made a poignant visit to lay flowers on the grave of the east Belfast teenager who he never met but who saved his life.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after they visited the grave on Saturday, the little boy's mum, Stacey, said: "It was really important for us to do this.

"I thought I would cry but I didn't. It didn't feel awkward, it felt like we had known each other forever."

Mark's mum Joanne said meeting one of those who benefited from the difficult decision to donate her son's organs was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

"I have never had any ill feeling towards Riley or Stacey because we have always thought we could not deny another parent the 20 years we had with Mark," she said.

"We had such a fun and lovefilled time with him and we enjoyed him immensely.

"We know how seriously ill Riley was and to see him so fresh-faced and healthy and knowing my son contributed to keeping him alive has been very positive.

"They came back to the house for a few hours and looked at some photo albums of Mark.

"Mark and I had a cry knowing that part of wee Marky was back in our lives, in our house.

"It has filled our home with warmth having a part of him back."

Riley and Stacey came to Northern Ireland to allow the youngster to take part in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games.

Mrs Elliott continued: "Wee Riley has won two gold medals but I want people to know Mark has won a gold medal as well.

"If there was a medal in the Olympics for giving and loving he would come home with gold. That is how we feel as parents.

"Mark used to tell us he wanted to donate his organs and we would tell him we didn't want to know but we now feel like he has actually helped us with all the decisions and the journey we're on at the moment.

"I would encourage any teenager who wants to donate their organs to discuss their wishes with their parents. If we hadn't gone through with it we would be feeling guilty now knowing we didn't fulfil his wishes. It is so important, especially when you see Riley playing football and baseball and doing so well.

"It has made us very proud as parents. We were always proud of Mark, but now we know deep inside he has fulfilled another family's dream."

Factfile

You are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor yet the majority of people in Northern Ireland have not signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register. Signing up is quick and simple and helps save lives. However, organs will only be used if families of the potential donor give their permission, so it is important to discuss your wishes. To sign up today, text SAVE to 84118, telephone 0300 1232 323 or log on to www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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