Family of young rider who saved four lives urges everyone to talk about organ donation

  • The mother of a young rider who died in a car accident is urging people to talk about organ donation as a change to the law in England was given the go-ahead by parliament.

    Keira Ball, who was nine years old when she died in 2017 saved the lives of four people by donating her organs — two adults and two children.

    On Tuesday (26 February), Max and Keira’s Law — named after Keira and 10-year-old Max Johnson who received her heart — cleared the final parliamentary hurdle. The bill has now fully passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with the final stage being royal assent. This means that from 2020 the law in England will change from an “opt-in” system, to presumed consent.

    “She had a real love for her ponies — it was a passion, she loved horses,” Loanna Ball told H&H.

    “Organ donation is such an important subject, I don’t think it can be spoken about enough. [The outcome on Tuesday] was absolutely brilliant, although 2020 is still so far away.”

    Keira Ball

    Families of the deceased will still have the final say, even if a person has expressly requested their organs are donated, which is referred to as a “soft opt-out”.

    Mrs Ball said she would like to see the law develop to move away from the family being able to make the decision if a person has said they want their organs to go to others.

    “It is so hard, your say should be enough,” she said, adding that education and more open discussion is the way forward.

    “For now this is a massive step in the right direction.

    “The problem is death is such a taboo subject and because organ donation comes after that it is something that is often never discussed.”

    Keira Ball

    Mrs Ball was seriously injured in the crash, so her husband, Keira’s father Joe Ball, made the decision when he was approached by the organ donor team at Bristol hospital that it was what his daughter would have wanted.

    On average, three people die each day while on the waiting list and more than 6,000 are waiting for a new organ.

    The family is promoting education around organ donation and transplants in schools.

    “Talk to children [about it at school] so they can go home and speak to their parents and everyone feels comfortable to have that conversation,” she said.

    “No matter what we do, loss comes to us all. We always think it will never be us, it will be somebody else.

    “Through something so tragic, there is a silver lining — she has this legacy.”

    Keira Ball

    Keira and Max’s families will both speak at the British Transplantation Society and NHSBT Organ Donation and Transplantation congress in Harrogate next week (6 to 8 March) to share their stories.

    Mrs Ball added she would like more open discussion over what happens when a person’s organs are removed as this and questions over whether the body will be disfiguired is understandably a worry for loved ones.

    “I think a lot of people are very afraid of that,” she said, adding it does not change the way their loved one looks. “People need to be reassured.”

    Keira is buried on the family’s land, next to one of her ponies and her grandmother.

    Her family set up a charity last year, called Inspired By Keira, to raise awareness of organ donation and to help families financially who are struggling with the associated costs of travel and accommodation when one of their members is in hospital. Keira’s elder sister, Keely, who also rides, competes in memory of her sister.

    Keira Ball

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