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Mother of rider killed in accident urges others to sign donor register

A livery yard owner who lost her daughter in an accident is urging equestrians to consider organ donation.

Elaine Cawkwell’s 31-year-old daughter Sam was kicked by a horse in the field in 2015 and died instantly, but was found too late for her organs to be passed on.

She said Sam “would have loved” to have helped others after her death, and is asking that equestrians sign up to the organ donor register.

“We all know horse riding is one of the top-listed high-risk sports, yet do we ever think of the ‘what ifs?’” she said.

“Sam was very healthy, never smoked and led a very active, outdoor, horsey life. She was very rarely ill and was remarkable in every way.

“She discussed being a donor often but regretfully Sam wasn’t found early enough for her body to be used to save lives. It is such a heartbreaking shame because Sam would have loved to have saved lives, it would have been what she wanted.”

Although the family was unable to use Sam’s organs to save others, they were eager for her death to not be in vain. In the months after the accident, Elaine said they actively promoted helmet wear when handling horses.

Now Elaine also wants to use her experiences to encourage riders to look in to organ donation.

“I have a long term family friend whose 18-year-old son Aeron sadly lost his life five years ago after a life-long battle with a disability.

“Aeron donated his organs to save three lives and his mother and sister have campaigned religiously on the importance of becoming a donor and getting on the register to help others,” she explained.

“I have always said that I would be happy to donate my organs but it wasn’t until we lost Sam at such a young age that I realised I needed to make it official. I didn’t want my family to have the burden of the decision on them at such a devastating time if it were to occur.”

Around 6,000 people in the UK are currently on the transplant list, and around three patients die every day while waiting for donor organs.

A study in 2009 by Professor David Nutt revealed around 10 people die every year in riding-related accidents, which Elaine believes makes riders prime targets for organ donor registration.

“Filling in the donor form online is very quick and easy. It takes all the complex issues away,” she said.

“I own and run a large livery yard catering for around 30 horses including our own and I am of the opinion that anything can happen, no matter how many precautions you take.

“I’d like to make all riders aware of what they could do to help save lives. After all, as many statistics show, our wonderful horses are a very high-risk hobby.”

Elaine’s campaign comes as the government discusses moving organ donor consent over to an “opt out” scheme.

Under “opt out” or “deemed consent”, everyone is assumed to have granted permission for their organs to be used unless they have added their details to the NHS Organ Donor Register to say that they do not wish to donate.

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The system was introduced in Wales in 2015, and is likely to cover England by April 2020. The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, also known as Max’s Law, was approved at its second reading in Commons in February and is scheduled to come before the House of Lords for a second reading on November 23.

It is hoped the law change will save around 700 lives each year.

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