Tissue donors honoured with special award

People from across the UK, who save lives or give hope through the gift of tissue donation, are being posthumously honoured: Individuals who donate their tissue after death are being recognised with the Order of St John Award for Tissue Donation. This is run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), like the award given posthumously to solid organ donors, which is presented to families and loved ones on their behalf.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester officially launched the tissue donation awards on 14 October at a private ceremony held at the Priory Church in London. The ceremony was attended by five tissue donor families, members of NHSBT’s Tissue Advisory Group (representing all tissue donor families to mark the official launch of the scheme) and representatives of the Order of St John and NHSBT.

Around 3,500 people each year donate their tissue after death to help others, and their families are now being offered an award in their loved one’s name – a special certificate which they will receive by post. So far more than 2,000 tissue donors have been honoured in this way.

Order of St John Award for Tissue Donation

The Order of St John Awards for Tissue Donation compliment the Order of St John Awards for Organ Donation, which have been running since 2013. The Tissue Donation awards started in summer 2019. All tissue and organ donors are now honoured with an award to recognise their life-saving gift, which their families receive on their behalf. There are more than 5,000 tissue and organ donors a year in the UK – around 3,500 tissue donors and more than 1,500 organ donors.

The award certificate features the St John Cross and says “The Order of St John is pleased to award and dedicate the insignia of national recognition to the cherished memory of (the donor) for the selfless contribution of adding life and giving hope to others from the gift of tissue donation.” The award is sent to the family privately.

Donor family legacy

Diana Comfort, aged 72, (pictured above with her Son Owain and HRH The Duke of Gloucester, receiving awards on behalf of relatives) was one of the donor family members in attendance. Her family have left an incredible tissue donation legacy, with three members of her family becoming tissue donors. Diana accepted three awards after her daughter, Laura, 18, husband, Derek, 65 and dad, Rowland, 94, sadly died and donated tissue to help others.

“Having spoken about organ and tissue donation as a family, I knew their wishes, so agreeing to donation was therefore made so much easier. To know that my three family members have been able to help restore sight for seven different people greatly helped us come to terms with their deaths. To be able to receive the gift of sight is amazing. The need for sight is sadly so great, yet the gift of sight so priceless. Laura also donated skin and bone to help others, which has brought us great comfort.”

I think the tissue donor awards are a lovely idea, it’s something tangible for families and personally I’ll be hanging them on my wall. I hope they will prompt conversations about tissue donation, I’m passionate about spreading the word.Diana Comfort

“I had mixed emotions at the event, it was very humbling and special and it brought back memories. I’m very proud of Laura, Derek and my dad.”

What is Tissue donation?

Tissue donation is when corneas (the clear layer at the front of the eye), skin, heart valves, tendons, arteries and bone are donated after death. A tissue donor can potentially help more than 50 people.

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323.