'Edwin helped someone else to live on'
THE family of a man described as being full of love has spoken of their decision to donate his organs to help others after his death.
Euphine Bromell, from Lower Compton, lost her elder brother Edwin, who had Down's Syndrome, when he was 65, three weeks after he fell down a flight of stairs at his residential home, The Lawns in Tavistock.
'NO PRESSURE': Euphine Bromell with husband Alan and a picture of Edwin, whose kidneys were donated
His sister then had to make a decision about donating Edwin's kidneys after he died, along with her husband Alan who had always helped her to look after Edwin.
"Losing Edwin left a hole in many people's lives," said Euphine. "He wasn't able to do much with his life in the same sense as others do, but if someone has lived because of him, it means something and I know he would have been happy about that."
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Edwin suffered a fractured skull after falling downstairs during the night. He was suffering from bronchitis at the time but seemed to be on the road to recovery until he had a haemorrhage, three weeks after the accident which left him on a life support machine.
Derriford Hospital made the decision to turn off the machine and approached Euphine and Alan about the question of organ donation.
"We wondered if they might ask us about it, so we had a discussion about it," Euphine said.
"Everyone at the hospital was fantastic. We weren't put under any pressure and we didn't feel rushed."
Alan said: "It was very sympathetically dealt with and it definitely felt like our decision. We knew nothing about it but they explained everything, always making it very clear that we could opt out at any time."
Edwin was born with Down's Syndrome and had lived at home until he was five under the care of his family. He spent the rest of his life in various care homes, while always spending every other weekend and holidays with his family.
Euphine said: "He hadn't done things such as going to America or achieving a career, but he showed a lot of love."
"He couldn't speak but he said everything with his eyes. You could tell everything he was thinking by the look on his face."
She said that the last 20 years of Edwin's life were definitely his happiest, as attitudes to learning disabilities started to change.
"I remember as a child the terrible places he had to live, as people didn't understand the condition. At one home I remember him screaming because he didn't want to go back there.
"My parents always showed him so much love and he was always integrated into the family."
"His last two homes were fantastic. The Lawns took the greatest care of him and took him on trips to France and Blackpool.
"They let him live as independently as he could. He had a mind of his own and even though he couldn't speak, he knew what foods he liked and he was a real outdoors person, even if it was raining or snowing."
She said that allowing Edwin's kidneys to be used had helped them get through the initial period of grieving.
"When you lose someone it's so sad, but to know he's helping someone else is a real comfort.
"The essence is that if anyone has lost someone and is afraid they'll be pressurised into donating an organ, I'd just like them to know that this isn't the case.
"All the medical staff were fantastic and it was a very calming process."
She added: "Don't be afraid to talk about it; it does help and you can always opt out. It's a wonderful gift to be able to give."
She said they had received some communication from the recipient of one of Edwin's kidneys via the transplant unit.
"To know the transplant worked was really wonderful. It's like a part of Edwin is still alive. He was such a pleasant chappie and was always so happy that we know he'd have been so pleased," Euphine said.
She added that she and her husband would be putting their names on the donor list.
Joan Stewart, who owns The Lawns residential home in Tavistock where Edwin lived for many years, said: "He was very much a people person and he loved being with others. He loved company so I think it's very appropriate that he'd go on to help others.
"I think families that make this decision should think very carefully, but if a person has had a good life then perhaps they might consider handing the gift to others.
"We still feel he's with us because of the donation."