Lisa Shrive’s story

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 places her hand on Lisa’s chest to feel her breathe (Gary Roberts / Sunday People

 A grieving mum places her hand on the chest of the woman who received her dead daughter’s lungs – and the comforting feeling is greater than any therapy.

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.

Rhona suffered a brain haemorrhage a few days after giving birth (Sunday People)

“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.

Jane meets up with Lisa and her daughter Amy (Gary Roberts / Sunday People)

“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.

Lisa, with her daughter Amy, had her life saved by the transplant (Gary Roberts / Sunday People)

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.’

Jane and John Moffat with daughters Beth and Caroline,

with Lisa and her daughter Amy (Gary Roberts / Sunday People)

“It was a nice surprise to hear from her.

“We hadn’t expected it. I had told the hospital I was open to receiving a letter from Lisa but I didn’t know if she would write.

“It’d be nice to hear from the others too. I know all transplants have been successful.”

One woman received Rhona’s liver and another a kidney and her pancreas.

Rhona’s other kidney was ­given to a man and her heart valves were stored for later use.

Lisa, of Nottingham, said: “Having the transplant really changed my life. It gave me my life back.

“And it changed Amy’s life as well. Suddenly she didn’t have to do everything to help me and she could spend more time with her friends and doing what she ­wanted to do. She was so happy to see me well again.

“I really wanted to contact the family of my donor so they could see the ­impact their gift had.”

Rhona Moffat with her two sisters (Sunday People

Jane and Lisa met for the first time eight weeks ago. Lisa said: “I wanted to meet Rhona’s ­family as I was so ­grateful for what they had done for me.

“It was lovely to hear from her. It was so emotional when we did meet up for the first time.”

Jane, who also has daughters Beth, 31, and Caroline, 37, and a son Billy, 34, said: “I didn’t know how I would feel about meeting Lisa. It’d been ­wonderful getting her letter but to meet her in person was going to be nerve-racking.

“But from the moment we met, I felt an instant connection with her. She came to our home in Edinburgh and stayed for hours, chatting about her ­transplant and about Rhona.

“It was so lovely to spend time with her. I’d been so nervous about meeting her yet within minutes I felt like I’d known her all my life.

“I put my hands on to her chest and I could feel her chest moving up and down with every breath she took with Rhona’s lungs, and I know it had only been made ­possible because of Rhona.

“We met her daughter Amy for the first time this week, and Lisa met Rhona’s sisters for the first time too, which was lovely. We all get on so well.”

Rhona’s other daughter is Sophie, aged four.

And Jane said: “When Rhona’s daughters grow up we’ll make sure they know all about their mum, and the gift she gave to Lisa. Rhona was a great mum and they kiss her photo whenever they see it. Even Emma Jane knows Rhona was her mummy.

“We will remain good friends with Lisa for ever. Rhona’s ­precious gift saved her life and that will bond us together for the rest of our lives.”