Proud parents of a tragic nine-year-old girl who saved the lives of four people from beyond the grave want to dispel the horror stories of organ donation.
The family of Keira Ball hope that a new law co-named in her honour will save hundreds of lives each year as it replaces the existing voluntary opt-in scheme.
Nine-year-old Keira tragically died in a car accident in August 2017 in which her mum Loanna and younger brother Bradley were also seriously injured.
Keira’s organs went on to save the lives of four other people, including young boy Max Johnson who received her heart.
The new organ donation law was inspired by Keira after Max and his family campaigned in favour of an opt-out system.
The law became known as Max’s Law in recognition of families’ campaigns. Max asked for Keira’s name to be added in her honour.
This means that all adults in England will be presumed to be organ donors when they die unless they ‘opt out’. The legislation comes into force on May 20.
Mum Loanna, 35, of Barnstaple, North Devon, said: “If your child needed an organ to survive, you would do whatever you could to try and get an organ. So you have to look on the flip side, if you’re going to receive an organ you have to be prepared to give one.”
Dad Joe, 37, said: “We never thought about organ donation, at the time we thought Keira would pull through.”
Joe said he was approached by the organ donation team and was asked if he had ever thought about it.
He said: “I looked at Keira, she was a really loving girl and she loved life. If she could help someone she always would, so it was a no brainer to help others.
“She was lush, if you could describe the perfect child – it was Keira . Everything about her, she was an angel.”
Joe said that parents in a similar position can be concerned about the appearance of their child following the organ transplantation but should be reassured.
He added: “We’ve had families contact us who are worried about donating their child’s organs after they’ve passed, they are concerned about the appearance of their child after organ donation.
“Keira looked perfect after her organs were donated – you would not be able to tell the difference, she didn’t look broken.”
Joe and Loanna who have three other children, hope the government will continue to educate people on organ donation to get rid of any misconceptions surrounding the new ‘opt-out’ regime.
Joe said: “We’d like to see education for young children in schools. We visit schools to do talks about organ donation, afterwards a lot of children have the discussion with their parents –education is the key to get rid of all the horror stories.”
‘Inspired By Keira’ gained charity status in Sept 2019, it has helped to support bereaved parents and families who have lost a child in tragic circumstances.
Joe said: “After losing Keira we noticed that there was not a great deal of support for bereaved families that lost children through a tragic death.”
The charity provides funding for counselling, activities and holidays so families can build new memories.
They also offer memory teddy bears which are made out of their child’s clothes, so parents can cuddle them.
Joe said: “Supporting the families the angels leave behind is a motto that was inspired by Keira.
“We’ve constantly promoted organ donation, we’ve campaigned by setting up the ‘Inspired by Keira’ Facebook page and we visit schools to educate kids about organ donation.”
Loanna said Keira loved playing and riding her 42-year-old horse who sadly died the same year as Keira.
They said that people considering organ donation should speak to their family members and friends about their wishes regarding organ donation.
Joe said: “The only issue with the law is even if you don’t opt-out; your family will get the last say. It’s important that you speak to your family about your wishes.
“If people feel so strongly about organ donation, then they will make the effort to opt-out but people who are on the fence may not opt-out. Hopefully this will guarantee that more organs will be available.”
The family hopes this will open the conversation for people who may never have thought of organ donation.
Every year, on the anniversary of Keira’s death and Max’s organ transplant –the two families meet to mark the special day and celebrate Keira’s life.
Joe added: “It’s a massive loss we’re never going to replace, but after seeing Max and how poorly he was – it is nice to see how far he has come.”