Teacher who died while waiting for new heart gets posthumous honour for saving three lives

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A SCOTS teacher who died waiting for a heart transplant has been posthumously honoured after her organ donation saved three lives.

Susan Reid, from Dunfermline, Fife, fell ill after the birth of her second child in September 2017.

A few weeks after her son Gregor was born, a hospital appointment revealed there was fluid on Susan’s lungs – an effect of peripartum cardiomyopathy, pregnancy-related heart failure.

While most people recover – tragically Susan, a physics and science teacher at Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, did not.

The mum-of-two then waited nearly two months for a heart transplant which didn’t happen, despite being at the top of the waiting list. Susan died from a brain hemorrhage on December 2 last year.

The 33-year-old was honoured last Friday (SEP 7) by St John Scotland for giving people hope – after her donation of two kidneys and a pancreas saved three lives.

Susan Reid with her son Gregor in hospital

And now, Susan’s husband Stuart, who collected the award in her memory, is urging everyone to join the organ donor register – and make their wishes clear to relatives.

Stuart, 41, told a local paper: “Susan was a very giving and caring person. She always wanted to help others to understand and learn, that’s why she became a teacher.

“Both her kidneys and pancreas were donated so it just shows how important organ donation is.

“Susan was at the very top of the waiting list for a heart and her doctors were surprised that she didn’t get one in time.

“The thing is, people can sign up as an organ donor but even then, family members can stop it from going ahead.

“The likelihood that there was a heart for Susan, but a family stopped an organ donation, is pretty high.

“The reality is that there is a family like mine that are living with the effects of not having a mother, wife and daughter around any more. If a family had just been brave enough to make a donation, our lives would have been very different.”

Susan’s health problems began after giving birth to her second son Gregor in September last year.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a relatively common condition which most people don’t know they have it and then recover. Tragically, Susan didn’t.

Susan was a physics and science teacher who was on the organ donor register for years before she needed a transplant herself

Stuart continued: “When they realised what it was, Susan was transferred to the Golden Jubilee in Clydebank and she was placed on the waiting list for a new heart.

“Gregor was only two-weeks-old at that point and as a family we are very grateful to the staff there who allowed us to stay with Susan, providing us with accommodation, so we could be there even at the drop of a hat.

“Unfortunately she went through various treatments. She was given an ECMO device which basically gave her heart a rest but that didn’t work.”

Stuart explained how Susan underwent further treatments which led to her being put in an induced coma. She was then moved to the top of the transplant list.

He added: “That didn’t come quickly enough, and she ended up having a brain haemorrhage. Gregor was just two months old.”

After the family’s experience, Stuart is urging everyone to sign up to the organ donor list and to have a conversation with loved ones about their wishes.

He said: “My call is that people do the socially-responsible thing. Organs are no use to you when you’re gone.

“I tell people it’s like when the Egyptians buried their fortunes with them, the gold has no value any more.

“This is still very raw but there is an opportunity for me to beat the drum about organ donation.

“I heard a mother wouldn’t donate her son’s heart because it made him who he is.

“But Susan was only 33, she was just starting her life and it’s a ridiculous reason not to give a heart to someone else.

Susan’s husband Stuart, right, and their two son’s Lachlan and Gregor

“I’ll never know why she didn’t get the heart in time – whether it was the wrong size, it didn’t match the antibodies or the blood type.

“But there is a likelihood it was because a family member decided not to donate, and that is madness.

“Cremating or burying a working organ is socially irresponsible.”

A month before her tragic death, Susan posted online and urged others to sign up for organ donation.

She wrote: “I have been on the organ donor register for years but never thought I would need to receive one.

“It has brought home to me the importance of having the discussion with loved ones about organ donation, you have the chance to save several peoples lives and to be a hero.

“It’s difficult emotionally knowing what has to happen to someone in order for me to get a heart but at the same time I want to go home to my boys.

“It’s not just my life that will be impacted by an organ donor, it’s my family and friends too.

“Please, talk to loved ones and please sign up for organ donation – be a hero.”

St John Scotland’s Chancellor, Dr Joe Morrow CBE, presented the awards to family members at the ceremony in Edinburgh.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, he said: “As a charity dedicated to saving and enhancing life, we recognise how important organ donation is in giving people who are waiting for a transplant the chance of life.

“The St John Scotland Award for Organ Donation recognises the courage of inspirational families who gave permission for their loved ones’ organs to be used to save the lives of others.

“We are incredibly proud to be working alongside NHS Blood and Transplant for the sixth year running, to help honour these families in this way.”

In June this year, the Scottish government announced legislation that would change the organ donation system from opt-in to opt-out.

Under the proposal it would be assumed people were in favour of donation unless they stated otherwise.

Currently 45% of the Scottish population have signed up for the organ donor card scheme – but the number of donors have increased by 89% over the past decade.

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