AN RAF Valley man has told how giving others 'the gift of life' after donating his wife's organs brought "great comfort" to his family.

Graham Heighton said he was "devastated" when his 67-year-old wife Catherine Maria Heighton died at Ysbyty Gwynedd in July, 31, 2013, after suffering a fall at home.

Now, her husband has described how his family’s loss was made easier by knowing that she had helped others.

He said: “It was a beautiful afternoon and my wife had gone into the kitchen and somehow lost her balance, fell over and suffered a bang to her head.

“She was perfectly ok, apart from a bit shook up, I told her to go for a lie down, so she went to bed, went to sleep but never woke up.

“The next day she was rushed to Ysbyty Gwynedd, and I was told she had suffered a serious brain injury and after some tests we found out there was nothing the doctors could do.

“At that point I was approached by an organ donation nurse who tentatively asked what I thought about organ donation. My wife and I had both discussed organ donation for years and we both agreed we wanted to be donors. The nurse, Abigail Roberts, said she would check the central register and confirmed my wife was on it.

“The result of this meant my wife was able to provide the gift of life to four other people. This was the only good thing to come out of such a horrible day – knowing this has kept me going and I fully support the work of the organ donation specialist nurses at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

“Donating organs does make a difference and it really does make it easier for those left behind, it’s important that all families discuss their feelings on it.”

Organ Donation Wales is now encouraging more people to talk about organ donation and encourage those to register their decision to either opt in or opt out to be become an organ donor.

Ysbyty Gwynedd’s emergency department associate specialist, Vannessa Poeppinghaus, whose life was saved by a liver transplant, wants families to discuss their wishes surrounding organ donation.

Vanessa had an inherited liver disorder which by her early 30s was worsening. Without a transplant her life was in danger, her career as a doctor would have ended.

The doctor received her transplant at Kings College Hospital in London in 1990 and now, 27 years on, has helped to save countless during her career in medicine.

She said: “It would not be possible for me to be here today without the death of another, the gift of life is very precious and this is what the donor’s family gave me and I will be forever grateful.

“It’s important that families discuss organ donation, at the moment we don’t have enough people talking about this – it is very important that your feelings on the subject are shared.”

Phil Jones, specialist organ donation nurse, based at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, and his colleague Helen Bullock, based at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, are also urging families to discuss organ donation.

Phil said: “It is extremely important that families have these conversations, we have a soft opt in or opt out register in Wales and we want everyone to be aware of this.

“It’s important that loved ones know your wishes surrounding organ donation so they can facilitate that for you and give others a chance of the gift of life.”

To find out more about organ donation and to register your decision please visit