Life goes on.
For the Marshall family in Barry, south Wales, life will never be the same again. Conner Marshall (18), son of Nadine and Richard, and brother to Jac and Georgia, was brutally murdered as he was enjoying a weekend away with friends at the Trecco Bay caravan park in Porthcawl in March 2015.
Conner was violently attacked, sustaining serious, life ending injuries. Four days later the doctors caring for Conner discussed with his family the agonising decision to turn off his life support machine. This is when they decided to honour Conner’s known decision to donate his organs.
Conner’s mother, Nadine Marshall explains how amongst the trauma, fear, pain and sadness, Conner has been able to give an incredible gift – the gift of life. The family were recipients of a St John’s Award for organ donation on Conner’s behalf in 2015.
She recalls clearly when Conner discussed his decision to become an organ donor with her:
“When Conner turned 16, he applied for his provisional driving licence, and came to me to tell me he’d ticked the box on the form saying he wanted to be an organ donor. We had a discussion about it, and he was very adamant that if anything ever happened to him, he would like to be considered as a donor.
“I never dreamt that moment would come just two years later. After Conner was found at the caravan park, he was taken to University of Wales Hospital Cardiff, where he was put on a life support machine in intensive care. We knew the situation was very serious and grave. However, despite the horrendous circumstances we were in, my husband and I, and both our children, drew a lot of comfort from the way the hospital managed everything.
“After four days of Conner being in hospital, the doctors came to tell us that no more could be done for Conner and that his life support machine was to be turned off. The organ transplant team approached us and informed us that Conner was a registered organ donor, and asked us how we felt about honouring his decision to donate his organs. The team was extremely empathetic.
“At first I really didn’t want to. I felt Conner had been through enough traumas with the attack and horrific injuries he had sustained. However, as well as being aware that his decision to be an organ donor, Conner also had a tattoo on his arm reading ‘Life Goes On’. For us that was very poignant; being given the opportunity to support Conner’s decision to donate his organs felt like a great opportunity to allow this to happen – to allow Conner’s life to go on in someone else.
“There was no way of saving Conner, but Conner has been able to save other people’s lives through organ donation. The Specialist Nurses explained everything so well and sensitively. As well as managing the organ donation side of things, they also spoke to us about making hand prints of Conner and saving some of his hair for a locket. All of this really helped in such a horrible situation.
“As a family we are very proud that Conner had this tattoo and we were able to honour his decision. Conner has given an incredible gift, we have been able to do what Conner would have wanted and supported his decision to become a donor.
“I’m all for the new organ donation system, I think it opens up those questions around organ donation that perhaps people might not otherwise talk about. Even though Conner was only 16, he made that decision to be an organ donor and luckily we had talked about it. I think it’s really important young people are listened to and given the opportunity to talk about it at school and college. It’s not long before they’ll be adults. It’s also important people talk to their loved ones about it so families are aware of their decision, should they find themselves in that incredibly difficult situation. Who knows what we would have done if Conner wasn’t on the register and we weren’t aware of how strongly he felt about being an organ donor”.