Almost four years ago on 9 December 2015, Lisa Wilson lost her son Tom in a freak hockey accident at the age of 22. Amid her overwhelming grief, she and her husband Graham agreed for his organs and tissue to be donated.
Rebuilding her life, after also losing Graham just eight weeks later to a brain tumour and sepsis, Lisa has become a passionate campaigner for organ donation. And this week she will take on a special role at the Opening Ceremony of the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Newport, South Wales (25 July).
Together with daughter Pippa (age 24), Lisa will be lighting the Donor Family Flame in memory and recognition of donors who have given the gift of life. The Wilson family has also commissioned a symbolic, sculpted baton, known as ‘Tom’s Baton’, which will be handed at the Opening Ceremony to the 900 transplant recipients taking part in the Games. It will be received by members of the hosts, Team Wales.
Created in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Tom’s Baton is being held by two bronze hands, representing the giving and receiving the gift of life that organ donation provides.
Lisa said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be able to donate Tom’s Baton to Transplant Sport. When Tom was in hospital, Graham said that there was nothing more anyone could do for Tom but there was something that he could do for others, then we found out that he had already signed up to the organ donor register while he was at university, we were so pleased as we knew that our decision had been the right one. Knowing that from Tom’s ending comes someone else’s beginning is what keeps me going.
“Some of Graham’s last words to me were ‘Lis, try and keep Tom’s memory alive’ and it brings Pippa and Igreat comfort that we are able to do that through creating Tom’s Baton.”
David Nix and his wife Jane set up the Donor Family Network in 1997 after their daughter Rebecca died in a road traffic collision in America. Due to the care and advice they received in the States, they decided to make sure families in the UK could receive similar support. David – who is also a Trustee of Transplant Sport - explains:
“Lisa and the Wilson family are tireless ambassadors and they have set up the Tom Wilson Memorial Fund to promote organ donation. This year the Wilson10, a team of 10 young people from Havering Hockey Club including Tom’s sister Pippa, took on 10 fundraising runs in memory of Tom and Graham. After completing the Liverpool Marathon as their last challenge, the team have raised over £14,000.
“We are so grateful to the Wilsons for commissioning the baton - it is a wonderful symbol of the gift of life and will become a central moment in the Opening Ceremony and closing celebrations of the British Transplant Games – not just this year, but in the years to come.”
The Games take place across four days (25-28 July) with around 900 participants – some as young as three – taking part in 23 sports and events across the city of Newport. Sports include track and field, swimming, football, table tennis cycling and badminton. The focus is firmly on taking part, having fun and celebrating life. However, there are many competitors who will also go on to represent Team GB at the World Transplant Games in NewcastleGateshead in August.
The aim of the Games – organised on behalf of charity, Transplant Sport, is to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. Wales was the first to introduce a soft opt-out system of the organ donor register. However, the decision on organ donation is still made by loved ones. That’s why organisers are keen to spread the word that you need to make your wishes – whatever they may be - known to your family.
As of 31stDecember 2018, there were 232 patients in Wales waiting for a transplant. In the first three quarters of 2018/19, 19 patients died while on the active waiting list.
The event is supported by Westfield Health, Welsh Government, Newport City Council, Newport Live the local health boards across Wales, NHS Blood and Transplant, Kidney Care UK, Anthony Nolan Register, Donor Family Network, Global Kidney Foundation and Believe Organ Donor Support. Further sponsors include Friars Walk, Icon Creative Design, Rodney Parade, Celtic Manor and Newport NOW BID.