Moving moment grieving mum feels the breath of woman who got her daughter’s lungs in transplant
- By Lucy Laing
Jane Moffat lost her daughter Rhona to a brain haemorrhage – but says she’s found comfort meeting Lisa Shrive, whose life was saved by the organ donor op
Jane Moffat’s daughter Rhona died from a brain haemorrhage days after giving birth to a baby girl.
But the tragedy was not the end of the story. Rhona’s lungs were donated to Lisa Shrive, a mother of two who was in a race against time for a life-saving transplant.
Now the women have met for the first time. And in a tearful moment, Jane placed her hands on Lisa’s chest to feel the breaths she can take thanks to Rhona.
Jane, who lives with husband John, 60, told the Sunday People : “I felt a connection with Lisa the moment I met her.
“It was so emotional as I know Lisa is only alive today thanks to the precious gift of Rhona’s lungs.
“It meant so much to actually be able to meet her in person. We will be friends now for the rest of our lives. It was devastating when we lost Rhona, and to see Lisa doing so well, being a mother to her daughters, meant the world to us.
“It offers us some comfort after losing Rhona to see what her gift gave to Lisa. It has allowed Lisa to be a mum to her children.”
Lisa, 47, who lives with her 12-year-old daughter Amy, was diagnosed at the age of 35 with a rare condition that causes small patches of red and swollen tissue in the lungs called sarcoidosis.
Lisa had been a fit, healthy and active woman. Initially doctors told her it was asthma .
But the medication did not help and she became increasingly ill.
Her condition developed into emphysema and, six years later, her lung collapsed. She had to have an operation to remove half of the damaged organ and she was put on the transplant list in July 2013.
Lisa, who also has a daughter Fay, 22, and a granddaughter Keira, five, said: “I had been so active all my life. I loved riding horses. But by the age of 45 I was totally bedridden. Amy had to do everything for me. I couldn’t go anywhere.
“I was constantly gasping for breath.
“She had to wash me, get me into bed and help me with my nebuliser, which was to help me breathe. Amy slept in the same room as me for two years and constantly watched over me.
“She was fantastic but it was awful for such a young girl to see her mother go through that.”
Lisa was moved to the critical list as her condition deteriorated. She had her transplant five months later, in January 2014.
For Jane, it was a brave decision to donate 33-year-old Rhona’s organs. Only a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, Rhona had given birth to Emma Jane, her second baby.
The birth had gone smoothly but by Boxing Day Rhona was feeling terrible and complaining of a sore neck.
Jane said: “We thought she must have slept a bit funny. We put a cold compress pack on it but it didn’t get any better.”
On the evening of New Year’s Day Rhona told her mum the pain was getting hard to bear.
She went to the local hospital for an out-of-hours appointment but she took a turn for the worse and was rushed to A&E.
Doctors put her into an induced coma and she was transferred to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
She was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage and surgeons could not save her.
Jane said: “We couldn’t believe it. Rhona was so young and fit, we never thought that we were going to lose her like this.”
Doctors asked to use her organs and her family agreed. Her organs were used to save five lives, including Lisa’s.
There are 20 million people on the organ donor register but three people die each day while waiting for a transplant.
One donor can help as many as nine people.
Jane received a letter from a grateful Lisa and they started to correspond.
She said: “When Lisa wrote to me, it was so emotional to actually get a letter from her and hear her to me how well she was doing.
“She just kept thanking me for her life, and it was amazing to think that Rhona’s gift had done that for her.
“She wrote, ‘There are no words to thank you enough for what you have done.’