Mum-of-one, Jill Polanski, whose husband Matt’s life was cut tragically short after a motorbike accident in August this year, has given her backing to the Organ Donation Scotland campaign.
Jill is proud that she was able to honour Matt’s wishes to be an organ donor – a hugely difficult decision that was made easier by a chat they’d had three years earlier.
Three months on from the accident, Matt’s family shared their experience in a bid to get people talking about organ donation.
Matt was just 30 when he came off his bike at Knockhill. A seasoned and talented rider, Matt had weathered countless injuries through his love of racing and riding in general. However that day, Matt succumbed to a serious head injury, leaving his wife, daughter, family and the racing community devastated.
Motorbikes run through the heart of the Polanski family, with Matt, Jill and their daughter Bethany all regulars at the Knockhill Circuit.
Jill said: “When the accident happened, I was in the pit lane with our daughter Bethany who was warming up to race that day as well. As soon as I heard they’d sent for an air ambulance, I knew how serious it was.”
Matt was initially treated by the Knockhill medics before being admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Jill, 32, from Cardenden, said: “Matt was in A&E, going through the handover when we arrived at the hospital. I was informed of how serious Matt’s condition was and I just kept asking to see his helmet, over and over again. I knew it would show how bad things were. When I saw it, I knew that was it. That it was over.
“The neuro-surgeon then broke the news that the bleeding and trauma to Matt’s head was so massive, that he’d gone.”
Jill and Bethany, surrounded by Matt’s family and friends, were approached about organ donation.
Jill said: “I remember feeling very numb as the accident had only happened about three hours beforehand. But I knew Matt’s wishes and agreed instantly to donate all his organs, apart from his eyes. His family just looked at me, but I was able to tell them that I knew that’s what he wanted.”
Jill and Matt had first discussed organ donation when Matt was renewing the photo on his driving licence.
Jill said: “I trained as a dispensing optician and have a medical science background so I knew how important organ donation was. A close family member of Matt’s has one kidney, so my view was very much that if anything happened to that kidney, he would rely on someone else giving one up.
“I clearly remember the discussion, and Matt saying he would have no objections for that very reason. He’d made the decision, all I had to do was honour it.”
Jill went through all the authorisation forms with Matt’s mum and dad as it was important to her that they were part of the decision. Jill and Bethany kept vigil beside Matt’s bed, refusing to leave him until the last possible moment when he was taken to theatre.
Jill said: “Bethany was struggling at this point, so I asked my best friend to talk things through with her. When I went outside to explain that recipients and their families would be making their way to hospital, Bethany hit me with the incredibly grown up statement that even though her Daddy was gone, because of his decision, some other little girl could still have her daddy tomorrow.
“The way she handled things helped me find peace and cope with those last few difficult hours.”
Matt’s heart saved the life of a woman, his liver went to a man, his kidney and pancreas to a woman and a teenage boy received his kidney.
Jill said: “It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do, but I’m so grateful that something positive has come out of Matt’s death. I can see it from the recipients’ point of view and how they must feel knowing someone died to help them, but I’m planning to write to them down the line to let them know the comfort it has brought us as a family.
“I’ll never forget the care and kindness shown by the staff in A&E and intensive care unit at Ninewells. The team looking after us were so patient, answering my unending questions. They were there for us every step of the way.”
Jill said: “Motorcycling is dangerous and we knew how precious life was. I’m just glad we took time to talk about what Matt’s wishes were and I’d encourage anyone to do the same, as with hindsight, it helped during that unbearable 24 hours. People have even come up to me and said they’ve joined the NHS Organ Donor Register as a result of Matt’s death.
“Although Matt was taken from us too soon, he certainly lived his life to the full and I’m a better, more rounded and accomplished person for knowing him.”