Grieving Wigan family's comfort that late mum gave the Christmas gift of life to others

A grieving Wigan widower has urged people not to snub the organ donor register after his late wife gave four people the “best Christmas present ever.”
Jodie, Mikey and Keira on holidayJodie, Mikey and Keira on holiday
Jodie, Mikey and Keira on holiday

Mikey O’Connell was speaking as he and his seven-year-old daughter Keira face a first festive season without spouse and mum Jodie.

The 28-year-old’s life was suddenly claimed by an aneurysm while on a family holiday in October.

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But being a willing organ donor has meant that she has helped to save other people’s lives.

Mikey and Jodie O'ConnellMikey and Jodie O'Connell
Mikey and Jodie O'Connell

He admits that the period since has been “incredibly tough”, but 30-year-old Mikey says that he has been greatly comforted that other lives have been saved.

And he is full of praise for his daughter who has been a huge source of support and pride as she throws herself into fund-raising.

Jodie was suddenly taken ill shortly after going on a thrill-seeking ride at the Butlin’s Splash centre, Skegness.

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The 28-year-old from Marsh Green was airlifted to Nottingham Hospital where she was kept alive for two days, even though there was little or no chance of her recovering, so that the organs could be harvested.

Mikey with hair and bird dyed pink along with KeiraMikey with hair and bird dyed pink along with Keira
Mikey with hair and bird dyed pink along with Keira

She passed away on Saturday, October 16. It was later confirmed that she had suffered a brain aneurysm.

Long before the law changed so that people had to opt out of being donors rather than vice versa, BAE Systems admin worker Jodie had carried a card.

And her gifts to others - three people in their 30s and one in their 50s - have now proved an inspiration to other family members.

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Mikey said: “Jodie had had a card since 2012 but, to be honest, I hadn’t given it a moment’s thought until I had the most shocking first hand experience of what it actually entails.

“So now I am on the register and so too are Jodie’s dad (Guy Morris) and both her cousins (Kirsty Davies and Simone English).

“I would urge people also to register and certainly not to opt out or trying to block the donation from a loved one.

“The organs they can take are of no use to the original owner and yet they can go on to save lives.

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“It is hugely comforting to know that because of Jodie, four other families got the best possible Christmas present this year.”

Mikey, a business development manager for a marketing company, has been on compassionate leave since tragedy struck and will return to work next month.

He says he is very grateful to his employers for giving him the time off, especially as he had only been working for them for a month when Jodie passed away.

He says there are many struggles in life but he continues to marvel at Keira’s maturity and thoughtfulness.

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Mikey said: “She is always thinking of others - just like her mother. She has fund-raised for Children in Need each year and carried on even after what happened to Jodie and raised a lot of money.

“She asked that if she did would I dye my hair and beard pink. I said I would do it if she raised £100 by the end of the week but she had raised £300 in a matter of hours, so I went and had it done. I then remembered that we had some hospitality tickets for a Leeds United game (I’m a fan) so I had to turn up like that.

“But it was a good result because lots of legendary players came to see us and loads more money was raised.

“She ended up with £1,300 in the end.

“I am so proud of her. She has her moments of course but she is also very philosophical, reassuring and grown-up. She says it must be harder for me because I am at home and she had her school and friends to go to. That’s the seven-year-old daughter comforting her dad.

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“She deserves recognition for what she has done. And she is wise. When she was raising the Children in Need money she said ‘this can go to other families like us who have lost someone special.’”

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