Organ donor who saved lives honoured

Beryl Swales with Tony's Order of St John award at her home in Lancaster.
Beryl Swales with Tony's Order of St John award at her home in Lancaster.

The grieving widow of a grandad of 20 has proudly accepted an award on his behalf after he donated his 
organs to save lives.

Beryl Swales, 73, collected her late husband Tony’s special award from St John Ambulance.

Tony and Beryl Swales in happier times.

Tony and Beryl Swales in happier times.

Tony, 68, donated his liver, eyes and skin tissue after he died from a brain haemorrhage.

Beryl, of Pinfold Lane, Lancaster, said: “There are so many people needing organs and it’s turning a death into something positive. It’s just knowing that all these people around the country have benefited from his death.

“He has given hope and life to someone else. It kind of softens the blow.”

She said: “We had had discussions about organ donation and he said he would want to help. He said ‘your body is no good to you when you die - if you can help someone, why not’. So when he was in the hospital with no hope of recovering, his family knew that is what he wanted.”

Tragically, only months after Tony’s death, Beryl’s 50-year-old daughter Brenda died.

She said: “Tony died on December 30 and on May 20 my daughter Brenda died.

“She had an underactive thyroid and she had the signs but she wouldn’t go to the doctors.

“She had a heart attack and passed away. She was 50, which is no age whatsoever.

The Order of St John award.

The Order of St John award.

“It has been a weird year for me, its hard to comprehend that they are not still here.

“For a long time I still expected Tony to walk through the door.”

An animal lover, Tony had two horses called Rosie and Maggie and it was whilst he was out in a van with his friends to get hay for his animals, that he collapsed.

Beryl said: “It was a big shock. I got a call saying Tony was in hospital after collapsing.

Beryl's daughter Brenda, who died at the age of 50 in March.

Beryl's daughter Brenda, who died at the age of 50 in March.

“I ran to the hospital but he was unconscious. I never really spoke to him again.

“That was on the Monday and by the Wednesday they said they were going to turn the machine off and see how he did. He died peacefully without ever showing signs of consciousness.

“The doctor asked about organ donation when Tony was on the life support and I said yes, why not help somebody.

“I got a card from the donor association saying they were thinking about me.

“It was September or October when I got the letter from St John’s Ambulance about Tony’s Order of St John award.

“The ceremony was in November. I went with Tony’s sister, it was lovely. There were a lot of people there who had loved ones that had given their organs. There was even a family who had lost a baby who had donated organs.

“When they donate their organs they know they are helping somebody live - they are giving someone a big present but willingly. It is a nice thing to do.”

Beryl and Tony met in The Millstone pub in the 1980s and were married 29 years.

The couple have 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

She said: “It’s lonely now, he did a lot for me. But although you know you have lost your loved one, its a wonderful feeling to know that they are going to help people with donations.

“It lifts your spirits. Someone is surviving and he lives on in other people, or at least a part of him does.”

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Transplant patients tell us that organ donors and their families are heroes. This award is a chance for us all to recognise their bravery and generosity. We hope these awards will inspire other people to tell their families they want to be an organ donor and then register their decision at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.”