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Tonbridge mum Gemma Ashdown hopes children will hear organ donor dad's heart beat again

A mum hopes her children will hear their late father's heart beat in the chest of a life he saved.

Jonathan Ashdown, from Tonbridge, started getting a headache days after the birth of his daughter Willow in July.

Jonathan and Gemma Ashdown with Emily Jasmine, Oscar John and Willow (19369504)
Jonathan and Gemma Ashdown with Emily Jasmine, Oscar John and Willow (19369504)

A scan at Tunbridge Wells Hospital revealed he had a bleed on the brain caused by an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), a tangle of poorly formed blood vessels.

Despite two operations, including open brain surgery, the 27-year-old died in September.

His wife Gemma from The Chase, Tonbridge, said: "At first I thought he was pulling my leg because Jono was never ill.

"He completed my life, we got married and had children and it was like our little jigsaw puzzle was complete. Now it's like a piece has been lost that I can't find."

In August the former Tonbridge Juddians rugby player celebrated his second wedding anniversary with Gemma.

Jonathan 'Jono' Ashdown with Emily Jasmine, 8 (19369501)
Jonathan 'Jono' Ashdown with Emily Jasmine, 8 (19369501)

On September 2 Jono, a former tree surgeon and DFS delivery man, underwent surgery at King's College Hospital, three days later he suffered a stroke and died.

Gemma, a mother-of-three, said: "Jono's dad was the first to mention the idea of donating his organs, but it was down to me because I was his wife.

"I wasn't sure and I went to a chapel to think about it, when I turned to leave there were all these people promoting organ donation, that was my sign."

Five people have received donations since Jono's passing, including "a precious and especially rare gift of a heart transplant," according to a letter sent to Gemma and her family.

A young boy and a man in his 60s both have parts of the dad's liver, while one man's 10 year wait for a kidney transplant was brought to an end as both of Jono's kidneys were donated, along with his pancreas and a layer of his skin.

Jonathan 'Jono' Ashdown with baby Willow (19369506)
Jonathan 'Jono' Ashdown with baby Willow (19369506)

The 34-year-old said: "The doctors said they might have had to exchange his heart with someone in Europe because there might not be anyone suitable in England.

"But the letter showed all of his organs stayed in England.

"It meant the world to me because one day my children might be able to go and listen to their father's heart beating.

"I will never love someone again like I loved Jono. My heart will never be filled, I feel lost and my home feels empty."

"There are other families going through what I'm going through, if I can give them longer with their family then that's what Jono would have wanted.

Around 150 people attended Jonathan Ashdown's funeral on October 9, today (Tuesday) would have been his 28th birthday.

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