LIFESTYLE

Jemima Layzell, 13, Helped Save More Lives Than Any Other UK Organ Donor

'She would be very proud of her legacy.'

08/09/2017 00:01 BST | Updated 08/09/2017 10:12 BST

A 13-year-old girl has been identified as the UK donor who saved or transformed the most lives through organ donation.

A typical donor enables between two and three transplants, however 13-year-old Jemima Layzell’s organs went on to help eight different people.

The teen, from Horton in Somerset, died tragically in March 2012 after suffering a brain aneurysm.

Her family are sharing her extraordinary story to encourage others to sign up to the organ donor register this Organ Donation Week (4-10 September).

c/o the Layzell family
Jemima Layzell

Jemima collapsed during preparations for her mum’s 38th birthday party and died four days later. 

She donated eight organs in total. Her heart, small bowel and pancreas were transplanted into three different people, while two people received her kidneys.

Her liver was split and transplanted into a further two people and both lungs were transplanted into one patient.

The eight different recipients included five children. 

To coincide with Organ Donation Week, NHS Blood and Transplant checked historical donor records of 35,707 deceased organ donors to see who had helped the most people in total.

Jemima was the only one who had helped eight people through solid organ donation.

According to the NHS, up to nine people could theoretically be transplanted through an individual organ donation, though there are no records of anyone who has helped that many people so far. 

Jemima’s mum Sophy Layzell, 43, a drama tutor said the family had discussed organ donation a couple of weeks before Jemima’s unexpected death. 

“The conversation was prompted by the death of someone we knew in a crash. They were on the register but their organs couldn’t be donated because of the circumstances of their death,” she explained.

“Jemima had never heard of organ donation before and found it a little bit unsettling but totally understood the importance of it. 

“We found the decision to donate Jemima’s organs hard but we both felt it was right and we knew she was in favour of donation.”

Sophy, who is married to Harvey Layzell, 49, the managing director of a building firm, continued: “We had no idea Jemima was the only person whose organs were transplanted into eight different people until NHS Blood and Transplant told us.

“Everyone wants their child to be special and unique and this among other things makes us very proud.

“Shortly after Jemima died, we watched a programme about children awaiting heart transplants and being fitted with Berlin Hearts in Great Ormond Street Hospital. It affirmed for us that saying ‘no’ would have been denying eight other people the chance for life, especially over Jemima’s heart, which Harvey had felt uncomfortable about donating at the time.

“We feel it’s very important for families to talk about organ donation. Every parent’s instinct is to say ‘no’, as we are programmed to protect our child. It’s only with prior knowledge of Jemima’s agreement that we were able to say ‘yes’.” 

c/o the Layzell family
Jemima Layzell

Sophy described her daughter as “clever, funny, compassionate and creative”.

“We feel sure she would be very proud of her legacy,” she added.

Sophy, Harvey, and Jemima’s 17-year-old sister Amelia now run The Jemima Layzell Trust, which helps young people with brain injuries and also promotes organ donation.

Sophy said: “Jemima’s motto, ‘Live Love Laugh’, runs strongly through her charity’s ethos.  As a donor family it’s incredible to think of the new branches Jemima’s tree of life has grown.”

NHS Blood and Transplant is sharing Jemima’s story to help inspire more people to tell their families they want to donate because a deadly shortage of donated organs is costing hundreds of lives every year.

Last year, 457 people died waiting for a transplant, including 14 children. There are currently 6,414 people on the transplant waiting list including 176 children. 

Anthony Clarkson, NHS Blood and Transplant assistant director of organ donation and transplantation, said: “Every donor is special and Jemima’s unique story shows the extraordinary difference a few words can make.

“Hundreds of people are still dying unnecessarily waiting for a transplant because too many families say no to organ donation.

“Please tell your family you want to donate, and if you are unsure, ask yourself; if you needed a transplant would you accept one? If so, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”

Sign up to become an organ donor here.