Little Leah's pride after organ donor mum she never got to meet saved five lives
An eight-year-old girl who never got the chance to meet her mum as she died shortly after childbirth has told of her pride that she saved five people's lives through organ donation.
Leah's mum Denise Carter suffered a massive brain haemorrhage in March 2009.
The 39-year-old's husband Steve was faced with the heartbreaking decision of whether to have her organs donated.
It was a conversation the couple never had - but through organ donation, Denise saved five lives.
Raising awareness for organ donation became a way for Steve and his four children - Leah, Aaron (10), Ethan (13) and Cameron (15), from Glengormley - to make new memories with their mum at the core.
They have taken part in a number of events together, encouraging others to talk about organ donation.
Addressing the first global organ donation event at Belfast's Botanic Gardens, brave Leah said: "I never got to know or meet my mummy, but I know she was a very lovely and wonderful person from all the stories my daddy has told me and from all the organ donation events we have done.
"I am very proud of my mummy because she saved five people when she died. That's a lot of people. She did this by organ donation."
Leah said that attending the event had "created a new happy memory of mummy for us".
Steve said that Leah first spoke about her mum at an event when she was just four years old.
He revealed how important it is for him to see his children talking about their mum.
Steve said: "She's so confident at getting up and speaking. We talk about Denise all the time.
"Any time it's mentioned in public about her mum, she'll always say, 'My mum saved five people's lives through organ donation. I'm so proud of my mummy'. It's so nice for her to be very open about what happened. It's so important for us as a family.
"I'd say at least once a night we mention Denise in one form or another. Whether it's a memory or like this week when it was snowing we'll say, 'Remember when mummy made a snowman'.
"It's so nice that we can still keep Denise's memory alive so they can speak about her and aren't afraid.
"If it's a special occasion or if they are a bit down they can speak to me about it and that is so important and that's worked so well with us."
Steve said he was concerned about how children can be blunt and forward with questions at school but he was reassured when he saw how openly and confidently his own children could speak about it.
"They'll ask, 'Where is your mummy?', and you think, 'Don't go into that'.
"But Leah and the other boys are so open and they say, 'Well mummy is in heaven but it's okay, you can talk about it'.
"It's so nice for them to be aware of it and be prepared for it in a way as well. And doing these kind of events - it's definitely helped us."
The family are a solid team and do everything together and love creating new memories in Denise's name.
"Even though she's not with us, they still associate the events with Denise, which is great," Steve said.
And he said when the children speak together about what happened to their mum, there is a "simplicity" in how they do it that allows them to have effective conversations.
He said: "An eight-year-old can explain it how an eight-year-old can. I find it easier when she talks about it to me, how simple it can be for them to talk about it.
"People ask, 'How did you do it for the last few years?'. But that's the biggest thing, it's teamwork. We do everything together and it's nice we all have the same interests."
Attending the event, organ donation champion and former MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said: "Wee Leah Carter is a little star. She spoke so bravely to us all about her mum Denise and how through organ donation she saved five different lives.
"She and her dad Steve are such amazing people who always put others first, saving lives through their powerful and personal story of love.
"Steve and his four wonderful children Cameron, Ethan, Aaron and Leah, who I am privileged to know and have watched grow into strong, caring and giving children ... Denise's legacy lives on proudly within them as well as in the transplant recipients whose lives she saved.
"It was so moving to hear Leah talking so passionately and warmly on what was such a bitterly cold afternoon in Botanic Gardens - her story, enthusiasm and warmth melting many hearts."
This week the Department of Health launched a 12-week consultation on a draft policy statement which aims to make more life-saving organs available for transplantation.