A memorial is being unveiled at University Hospital of North
Durham to honour members of the local community who have donated
organs at the hospital.
In addition to a wall mounted stone memorial, individual
remembrance stones have been embedded into the walkway approaching
the main hospital entrance.
Paul Forster-Jones, a non-executive director at County Durham
and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Trust's Organ
Donation Committee said, "The memorial honours the 58 people who
have donated organs since it first became possible at this hospital
in 2010 - each of whom is honoured with an individual stone, around
half of which bear the details of the donor and a dedication from
their family. The remaining stones are anonymous. The
memorial also pays tribute to the families who found the courage to
see through their loved ones' wishes.
"These 58 donors have resulted in over 250 people receiving
either life-saving or life transforming transplants. A
further 100 people have also benefited from transplants from donors
at our other acute hospital, Darlington Memorial Hospital, meaning
that almost 400 people have received a new chance at life as a
result of the kindness of others in our community.
"This kind of memorial is known as a Stolpersteine, meaning
'stumbling stone'. The concept aims to commemorate 'good
people at their last place of life', and there are many thousands
of them around the world.
"The North East has a great community spirit so it's no surprise
to me that it's one of the top regions in the country for organ
donation. Unfortunately, however, less than 2% of all deaths
in hospital are suitable for organ donation. Although it's no
longer necessary to be registered in order to be a donor, families
can still choose not to consent - often because of uncertainty
about their loved one's wishes. So we strongly encourage
people to have that difficult conversation with their family -
making their wishes known. Currently, more families refuse
than give consent for organ donation than give their consent.
Of course, this is an incredibly difficult decision which is why
it's important to remember and honour those who save others in this
"Tragically, every week people in our region die while waiting
for an organ donation and many hundreds endure life-limiting
treatments whilst waiting."
Sheila Burlison, a 61 year old former north east nurse, had a
heart transplant in 2020, thanks to a donor. She says,
"Unfortunately, my heart was affected by treatment I received for
breast cancer. Prior to that I was always on the go, both at
work and home. I'd been unwell for seven years before my
transplant, could no longer work and was in total heart
failure. Simply moving around at home became very difficult,
I was so breathless all the time.
"When I got the call to say there was a heart for me, my first
thoughts were for the poor family of the young man who had
died. I have subsequently met them and they told me it gave
them comfort knowing something positive came out of their son's
"Although it was immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the
transplant totally transformed my life. It gave me a future -
something I didn't think I had - I can look forward. It was and
still is like a miracle. I can enjoy the simple things of daily
life - working in my garden or even just going upstairs! I
will be forever grateful that this is all thanks to the generosity
of a donor and their family."
Keith Parker lost his wife, Nicola, suddenly in 2018, when she
was 70 years old. "Nicola had Parkinson's for seven years but
had a seizure which took her from us very suddenly and
"I can't speak highly enough of the organ donor nurses who were
incredibly kind. But when they first came to see me to gently
discuss the possibility of organ donation, it presented an enormous
dilemma as it wasn't something Nicola and I had ever discussed and
I had no idea of her wishes. When the nurses told me Nicola
had registered as a donor through her driving licence, all
uncertainly lifted and I had no hesitation in fulfilling her wishes
and giving the go-ahead. Both Nicola's kidneys and one of her
lungs went to people badly in need of them. I've had letters
from all three, which made me very proud and brought me some
"Nicola was someone who always wanted to make things as easy as
possible for others and donating organs to give others an easier
life is a fitting way to mark her own."
We also want to give thanks to and honour future donors who will
be given the opportunity to be named and remembered on the
Published: 15 February 2023
'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient
ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough
- could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'
Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community