THE one-year anniversary of Stacey Hansell’s organ transplant was marked by an anonymous letter from one of her three donors.

Her mum Jayne Cotton read it with Stacey’s daughter, then 14, who she left behind having taken her own life in June 2014.

Three years after the decision to donate her daughter’s kidneys and liver – which live on in three 50-something-year-old men – Jayne, of Mistley, has no regrets.

She said: “I was quite upset because I didn’t hear from any of them in over a year but during that time we were grieving.

“The letter said it took him a few weeks to get well and it took a few months for him to come to terms with the fact someone had died for him to live so his period of getting used to being a recipient was also very traumatic, which I hadn’t considered.

“During the process of preparing Stacey’s body for donation, we discovered she’d registered to be a donor when she was 18.

“We made the choice based on the Stacey we knew and loved, but she’d already made that decision herself so it made it even better.”

Doctors at Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, waited about eight hours before approaching the family about organ donation but there were still further tests to do until they could confirm Stacey had lost all brain activity.

Still, Jayne was numb and the timing felt cruel.

She said: “I thought, she’s laying there breathing albeit by a ventilator and was still warm - how can I consider that? I never thought Stacey would die.”

But in that moment she reflected on the mum-of-two’s 33 years of life.

She said: “Stacey was a youth worker and had worked for the Prince’s Trust. All she’d ever done is give.

“If there was a bird she found injured at the side of the road, she’d bring it home and we’d have to nurture it back to health. That was the type of person she was.”

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A series of invasive questions and tests followed to assess whether Stacey’s organs were fit for transplantation and to find the right recipients.

It was a shock, and exceptionally hard, even with the support of a donor nurse and specialist team who reminded her she could stop the process at any time.

She said: “Had I been more aware, I would’ve been mentally prepared and this is why I’m so open about it, but I tell the truth.

“I was so naïve, I thought they whisked your body off and took the organs out, but knowing what I do now, I’d still make the same decision.

“The hospital were fantastic, they were so compassionate towards us.

“None of them have an easy job to do and having gone through all of that I’m even surer we should have an opt-out system in England.

“I’m sure there would be people who would still refuse but others would accept it. Whereas now the initial approach those nurses have to make, at the time they have to do it, is horrible.”

Stacey’s body was ready for transplantation a day after she died.

During this time she remained on the ventilator and her heart continued to beat.

She was the first full transplant the particular ward had carried out and the family were offered an award from St John’s Ambulance in her memory.

Jayne remained with her until the end.

She said: “When I let her go at the theatre doors, I knew the next time I saw her she’d be cold but I didn’t have a problem with it. There was some sort of acceptance.

“My daughter had a very full life and I’m glad I had 33 years with her. You have to be thankful of what you’ve had and not keep yearning for the things you can’t change.”

At just 16, Stacey’s daughter is ready to add her name to the organ donation register as several of her relatives have done already.

The youngster also wants to counsel other families and share her story in schools.

Her mum’s death sparked a profound conversation, however Jayne wants it to take place more than just once a year during Organ Donation Week in September.

She said: “We need to re-educate and talk more about the positives of organ donation.

“It’s still very much a taboo subject.

“The best gift you can give anyone is the gift of life. I couldn’t get my daughter back but it makes me feel some comfort that part of her lives on.”

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