HAREFIELD Hospital transplant patient 21-year-old Will Pope celebrated his first Christmas with his new heart – and in an extraordinary encounter was able to personally thank the man whose son’s death gave him his life back.
The moving meeting with Steve Ince, whose son 20-year-old son, Tom Ince, died in a car crash, was filmed as part of ITV series, The Greatest Gift: Tonight, which aired last month.
Tom, an apprentice electrical engineer from Bristol, lost control of his car in heavy rain, suffering catastrophic head injuries. He died on December 30, 2012.
As his life support machine was switched off, his family faced the excruciating decision of whether to honour Tom’s wishes of being an organ donor.
They agreed, and on New Year’s Eve that year, Will who was in intensive care just weeks away from death suffering heart failure, received the call he and his family had been praying for.
He underwent surgery at Harefield Hospital in Hill End Road the same day. Twelve months on Will has made almost a full recovery and is in his second year of his classical civilisation degree at Bristol University.
His story has appeared in numerous television programmes and newspaper articles, and it was while reading one of these Steve worked out from the time and date that must have been Tom’s heart which Will had received.
In July, his curiosity lead him to find Will on Facebook and send him a message.
He wanted to see the proof for himself that his son’s death had not been a complete waste.
Until then, Will knew nothing about his donor or the circumstances of their death, but had often wondered who had saved his life.
“I was aware that someone had to die for me to live, which was difficult to accept,” he told the Daily Mail.
“But I reasoned that it was perhaps the only positive thing to come out of someone’s death.”
He never dreamed he could personally show his gratitude to his donor’s family, but in December, Will and Steve met.
Steve thanked Will for making Tom’s last wish of being an organ donor come true, and Will thanked Steve and his wife, Sue, 47, for their ‘incredible selflessness’, despite their own sorrow.
Steve said the meeting helped lift him from a ‘rut of grief’.
At the time of the transplant, Will was unable to breathe by himself.
Harefield Hospital surgeons had installed a battery-powered device to do the work of the left ventricle, but his condition took a sudden turn for the worse, and he could only breathe with a tube inserted into his windpipe which was connected to a ventilator.
Following the complicated operation, during which Will suffered cardiac arrest, he spent months recovering in hospital.
He returned home on March 12 last year and says he now feels ‘completely normal’.
The full programme showing the incredible meeting can be watched by searching ‘Will Pope’ at www.itv.com/itvplayer.
n If you want to make a New Year resolution that could make a lifetime’s difference to someone, why not consider signing up to the organ donor register?
Go to organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323 to find out how you can help.