A FAMILY whose teenage son gave the greatest gift of all after he died from an allergic reaction to a takeaway curry are urging people to sign up to the organ donor register.
It is almost 10 years since Phillip Heywood, aged 19, died from a reaction to a tikka masala curry — despite having eaten the same dish before.
Phillip’s parents, Ged and Marianne Heywood, both aged 57, of Churchill Drive, Little Lever, admit they have struggled to come to terms with his death.
But say they are still proud their son chose to donate his organs.
Phillip told his father he wanted to sign up to the organ donor register when first filling out his application for a driving licence aged just 17.
He had also told a friend in passing about his wishes.
But it was still a difficult decision for Ged and Marianne to make when their son lost his battle to anaphylactic shock in June, 2004.
Mrs Heywood said: “I had no idea Phillip had ticked the box on his driving licence. It was only because he’d mentioned it to his dad and his friend that we knew.
“That was typical Phillip. He always put other people first before himself.
“They gave us a list of which organs we wanted to donate. As I sat and looked at it, all I could think was: ‘That’s is my son’, and at the time I just couldn’t say yes to donating his eyes and heart.
“With hindsight I wish I had said yes, but we were so raw at the time. Although it only feels like yesterday, it does help to know that Phillip’s organs have helped other people and improved their lives.”
The recipients of Phillip’s donated organs included a one-year-old baby boy, a dad-of-two with emphysema and a woman living with kidney failure.
“We did receive some letters from the transplant co-ordinators and one of the recipients about how they were getting on, but we’ve not heard anything for a while,” said Mr Heywood.
“It’d be nice to see how they’re doing now. To know that they are still healthy would really help us.
“If other people are thinking about signing up to the register, we would recommend you talk to your family about it so they are aware of your wishes. It also really helped us that Phillip’s friend knew too.”
Ged and Marianne have also campaigned passionately to make more people aware of food allergies. Their son had previously eaten cereals and chocolate bars containing traces of nuts, with no ill effects.
But after sharing the tikka dish with his girlfriend, Becky, he complained of feeling ill and suffered an anaphylactic shock, which causes the windpipe to close.He was taken to hospital in Trafford from Becky’s Heywood home, but died two days later on June 7.
At the time, hundreds of tributes poured in for the soccer mad Manchester United fan, along with a letter from Sir Alex Ferguson.
Phillip was once a team mascot for the club and had met David Beckham.
Mrs Heywood said: “He suffered from asthma and had had allergy tests when he was younger. They showed he had allergies to eggs and nuts. Later on the egg allergy disappeared, but he still had a mild nut allergy. The thing is, he had had that dish before and been fine.
“A lot of people with allergies usually get a warning when they have a reaction, but Phillip didn’t get that. Sometimes I can’t help but think — where was his warning?
“We’ve all been tested for allergies since and I would urge other families to do the same. There’s no such thing as a ‘mild’ allergy.
The couple’s plea for people to sign up to Organ Donor Register comes ahead of the British Transplant Games, which are set to take place in Bolton next summer.
The games, organised by charity Transport Sport, will see thousands of inspirational athletes who have had transplants travel from all over the country to compete in 20 different sports in and around Bolton.
Bolton donor recipients have also joined the campaign and are urging others to give the gift of life.
- Organ donation is the gift of an organ to help someone who needs a transplant.
- The generosity of donors and their families enables more than 3,000 people in the UK every year to take on a new lease of life.
- The first successful kidney transplant was in 1954. The first heart transplant took place in 1967.
- Every day three people die while waiting for a transplant and many die before they even get on to the transplant list.
- Kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and the small bowel can all be transplanted.
- The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential, computerised database which holds the wishes, after death, of more than 16 million people.
- To join the register, call 0300 1232323, text SAVE to 841118 or visit organdonation.nhs.uk