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Chatham resident Diana Comfort encourages people to donate organs and tissue

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A former teacher touched by tragedy has urged families to speak to each other about donating their organs and tissue.

Diana Comfort says despite the law changing so people have to opt out of the NHS scheme, problems still exist.

Diana Comfort speaking about the issue

The 72 year old has been through the difficult process three times after loved ones passed away.

In 2000, her 18-year-old daughter Laura suddenly died after collapsing with an undiagnosed condition.

She'd just completed her A-levels at Rochester Grammar School when the tragedy happened.

Diana and her husband Derek were faced with the daunting decision but without hesitation let it be known Laura carried a donor card, hoping her organs and tissues could be used for transplantation

She said: "It was terrible time but also comforting to know her death was not in vain, that some good could come of it."

Donors Derek, Laura and Rowland have been honoured. Picture: Diana Comfort
Donors Derek, Laura and Rowland have been honoured. Picture: Diana Comfort

Two children received Laura's corneas, while her femurs and skin from her back went to help accident victims.

In 2008, Diana lost Derek to pancreatic cancer, but she knew his wish was to help because he'd been a long-term carrier of an organ donor card – he gave his eyes and a cornea was transplanted.

A few months later, her 94-year-old father Rowland suffered a stroke and died in Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham.

He donated his eyes and both corneas and sclera were transplanted.

Chatham resident Diana works with the NHS to advise and liaise regarding problem issues and policies surrounding donations.

Diana Comfort with son Owain, receiving the awards on behalf of their lost loved ones. Picture: Diana Comfort
Diana Comfort with son Owain, receiving the awards on behalf of their lost loved ones. Picture: Diana Comfort

She believes passionately that the public could be better informed when it comes to what family members wish to happen when they die.

Although the law changed in May last year meaning the emphasis is to opt out, the system often fails when loved ones challenge medics.

She said: "Families need to talk to each other about what their actual wishes are, to make sure everyone understands they are happy they will become a donor.

"It's a difficult conversation to have because we don't like talking about death, but it's vital and can help so many other people.

"I'd say to anyone unsure about it 'would you happily receive a donation if a loved one needed a transplant?'

The family on Laura Comfort's 18th birthday
The family on Laura Comfort's 18th birthday

"If the answer is 'yes', then why wouldn't you do the same for someone else?"

The grandmother of two, who taught in infants' schools around the Towns, was speaking after attending an event which honoured Laura, Derek and Rowland.

They were recognised with the Order of St John Award for Tissue Donation.

All tissue and organ donors are now being honoured with an award to recognise their life-saving gift, which their families receive on their behalf.

There are more than 5,000 tissue and organ donors a year in the UK.

Campaigner Diana Comfort
Campaigner Diana Comfort

Diana added: "I think the awards are a lovely idea, it’s something tangible for families and personally I’ll be hanging them on my wall.

"I hope they will prompt conversations about tissue donation, I’m passionate about spreading the word.

“I had mixed emotions at the event, it was very humbling and special and it brought back memories. I’m very proud of Laura, Derek and my dad.”

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