A courageous teenager is urging more people to agree to donate their organs after they die - inspired by her beloved mother who died in a tragic accident last year.
Gwenllian Boyns,16, is spurred on by the memory of a chat with her mother, Elen Meirion, which led to five people receiving life-changing transplants just a few weeks later.
The 43 year old primary school teacher passed away at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, in Bodelwyddan, on April 17 last year just two days after she tripped and fell down the stairs in an accident at her home in Rhewl, near Ruthin.
Despite being torn apart by raw grief, Elen’s family, including her brother, the popular tenor, Rhys Meirion, knew what the answer had to be when medics asked whether they’d consider donating Elen’s organs – a resounding yes.
Gwenllian, who was then just 14, recalled the conversation she’d had at home with her mum about organ donation and that her mum had clearly stated she would want to donate her organs to help others in the event of her death.
As a result, Elen’s pancreas, liver, kidneys and heart valves were donated and given to sick patients desperately in need of organ transplants.
Gwenllian, a pupil of Ysgol Brynhyfryd, in Ruthin, is determined to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation as well as raising money to support the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where her mum received "wonderful care".
She said: “It was amazing really, only a few weeks before mum’s accident we discussed donating organs as I was preparing a speech on the subject which I was writing to present in front of my English class.
“When being told my mum would not get better after her accident doctors asked if donating her organs would be appropriate.
“I thought back to our talk and remembered we’d both agreed it was the right thing to do when out time was up as our organs are no use to us after we die.
“Because of this discussion we, as a family, did not hesitate to agree to donate mum’s organs. By donating her organs she saved the lives of five other people.”
She added: “I think we really need to raise awareness within families about organ donation so everyone knows what people want to do. Everyone should discuss it like mum and I did. It made the decision so much easier when we were told she was going to pass away.
“Imagine how hard it would have been if we hadn’t talked about it? We wouldn’t have known what to do. And when the time comes you can’t think straight as you are so upset.”
Gwenllian has received three letters from some of the people who received her mum’s organs which has proved a massive help as she tries to come to terms with her grief.
She said: “We aren’t allowed to know their identity so the letters are anonymous. But it definitely helps knowing mum saved five other people through her organs being donated.
“I’d like to do something more to encourage people to talk about organ donation beforehand. It would make things easier if, like our family, the time comes when you have to think about it.
Gwenllian is determined to help Ysbyty Glan Clwyd by fundraising for the ICU department where doctors fought so hard to save her mum.
Gwenllian said: “After mum passed away my dad, Robert Boyns, decided to do his first ever triathlon in Ripon and raise money to give something back to the hospital.
“He set up an account on justgiving.com where people could donate money towards Ysbyty Glan Clwyd ICU department where mum was cared for.
“Even before the triathlon people were donating, some gave big amounts and some donated anonymously. We set a target of £500 but raised a massive £4,572.17 which was just incredible.”
She added: “The support we received from the hospital and healthcare staff was wonderful and this is why my dad and I decided to fundraise and donate money to the hospital through the charity Awyr Las. They were very understanding and explained everything in detail.”
She said: “There is a family room in the ICT department where we could go to rest but it was very dated and quite small. There was no digital TV or art work for example.
“I think what is needed is a comfortable room where you could go just for an hour or so to try and relax. Somewhere with good Wi-Fi so you can access e-mails and let everyone know what’s happening.
“I found that everyone, other than close family at the hospital, were desperate for news of what was happening yet we couldn’t let them know. So just being able to access Facebook or your e-mails would be really helpful.
“These are only little things but it would make such a difference for families in the situation we found ourselves in.
“I hope to raise more money towards the hospital as their care for my mum and my family was wonderful and we appreciate everything they did for us.”
Gwenllian’s dad, Robert, 45, says he decided to raise funds for the charity Awyr Las in support of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd to support his daughter and to show his appreciation for the way Elen had been cared for.
He said: “I was so proud of Gwenllian and so pleased she had had that conversation with her mum about organ donation, It made the decision, when her family was asked about it so much easier.
“I really wanted to raise funds for the hospital. I’m a director and owner of an IT company, Boyns Information Systems Ltd, and we have, as a company, raised funds for several charities and good causes over the years.
“My interests are mainly sporting and I played rugby competitively until a few years ago. Triathlons seem to be quite popular with people of my age group who have stopped competitive sport, put on a few stone and started to panic about what to do in the future!
“I really wanted to support Gwenllian and to give something back to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Everyone at the hospital had been very kind and caring to Gwenllian and family at their time of need. They were empathetic, professional and caring and made what was a difficult time more bearable.”
He added: “I tackled an Olympic distance triathlon at Ripon Racecourse in July last year which involved a 1500m swim, a 40k cycle ride and finished with a 10k run.
“I enjoyed it because I believe I was able to raise money for Awyr Las but also involve Gwenllian and the family. For example, we were able to have a short break in Ripon.
“This proved invaluable as it allowed Gwenllian, to appreciate the purpose of it whilst at the same time having a bit of fun and taking her mind off things if only a little bit.
“I would like to annually raise money for different good causes as Gwenllian really inspires me.”
Dr George Bugelli, Consultant Anaesthetist at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, was extremely grateful for the donation.
He said: “We do not often receive such large donations and want to thank Gwenllian and Roberts Boyns for all their hard fundraising efforts alongside their friends and networks to raise this generous amount.
“After a discussion with Gwenllian and Robert we jointly decided the donation would primarily support patient needs within the unit along with an upgrade to the relatives’ room to equip it with suitable furniture, entertainment and artwork.
“Through our charity, Awyr Las, these types of donations are crucial to ensure we can enhance patient and family experiences with facilities over and above what the NHS can provide.”
Cath More, Community Fundraising Co-ordinator for the charity Awyr Las, which is Welsh for Blue Sky, says the charity’s mission is to brighten the lives of hospital patients and people receiving care in North Wales communities.
She said: “We are patient led in terms of where donations go. Our aim is to support the needs of patients but also to follow the wishes of donors. Exceptional care requires exceptional support.
“The heart-warming feeling I get from speaking to inspirational people like Gwenllian and Robert, who just want to give something back, astounds me on a daily basis and it just shows how lucky we are to have such wonderful community support to help make a difference for healthcare across North Wales.”