Lancashire dad honoured for saving lives after his own sudden death

A dad from Lancashire has been posthumously honoured for saving lives.
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John Haythornthwaite, aged 58, originally from Preston but living in St Anne’s, died suddenly after a brain haemorrhage in October 2008. The father-of-two went on to donate his kidneys, liver, heart valves, cornea and other tissue.

He was one of 10,000 organ donors, who have saved tens of thousands of lives, who have been honoured with an Order of St John Award for Organ Donation over the last decade.

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At a special event last Friday, His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a new memorial dedicated to all organ and tissue donors in the UK.

Jo and John HaythornthwaiteJo and John Haythornthwaite
Jo and John Haythornthwaite

Jo Haythornthwaite, John’s wife, was in attendance. The stone memorial will have a permanent home in the Museum of the Order of St John, in Clerkenwell, London.

John’s story

Wife Jo said: “It was very sudden, John collapsed at home and was rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

“Sadly he never regained consciousness and we were told he had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage, with no chance of survival.

Jo Haythornthwaite with the national memorialJo Haythornthwaite with the national memorial
Jo Haythornthwaite with the national memorial
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“We were approached by a member of the Organ Donation Team, who asked us if we had ever thought or spoken about donation. She was very sensitive to our situation.

"I felt it was the right thing to do, and was sure John would have agreed with my decision. So we set the wheels in motion.

“If by John’s passing other lives could be saved, it was definitely the right decision to make. He donated his liver, kidneys, heart valves, corneas and tissue. All these years later, I find it to be truly amazing.

“It was a privilege and an honour to receive the Order of St John award for Organ Donation in memory of John. We had a wonderful day when we went to collect the Award at St James’ Palace in London at the launch of the awards 10 years ago.

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“It was definitely an emotional day and one to always remember and treasure in our hearts. I keep John’s award by his photo and wear it with pride. And if asked about it, I take time to explain about it and organ donation.

“It still feels like yesterday and having the recent ceremony 10 years on is a tribute to all those and their loved ones who have donated, so others could carry on and live normal lives. To have a lasting memorial is amazing, what legacies organ donors have left behind. Organ donation is the gift of life and is so special.”

Jo now chairs the Organ Donation Committee at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and has worked to create an organ donation memorial at the hospital.

60,000 people alive thanks to organ donors

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Organ donors give the ultimate gift of life to people they will never know and it is important we recognise the difference this makes to the lives of recipients.

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“Without people being willing to donate their organs, no organ transplants would be possible. Over 60,000 people are alive thanks to organ donors and their families saying yes, but thousands more adults and children are still waiting for a life-saving donation.

For more information about organ donation, or to confirm your decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register, please visit: or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.