'Peter and I were very close and we had discussed organ donation' 

Nurses Peter Knight and Jan Thompson fell in love at Dorset County Hospital, near Dorchester, and shared their lives for a few short, blissfully happy years.

In November 2003, Peter, 42, collapsed while working his shift as a theatre nurse at the hospital and hit his head on a trolley wheel. He had a brain haemorrhage, fractured his skull in the fall, and had a fit. Peter was rushed to intensive care in the hospital, where colleagues fought to save his life.

Jan, who shared a home with Peter in nearby Charminster, was working as a community staff nurse in Dorchester when she was told about Peter's collapse. She rushed to his side.

As it became apparent he wasn't going to recover, Jan remembered what Peter had told her about wanting to donate organs for transplant if he could.

"Peter and I were very close and we had discussed organ donation. We were both in favour of it, but I wasn't sure whether he'd signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register," says Jan.

"It turned out that he was on the register, but even then the hospital still needed my permission to go ahead and begin the process of donating his organs to other people.

"It was made far easier for me at that time because he had taken a positive action to back up our talk: he had signed on the register. I agreed to the donation in the full knowledge that it was what he would have wanted."

Peter's heart was transplanted into a 53-year-old man, a kidney was transplanted into a 30-year-old man, his liver went to a woman aged 37, and a man aged 43 received his lungs.

"It was a terrible time for the family. I can understand the agonies that other families must have to go through if they don't know what their loved one would have wanted. They have to act in a vacuum or guess what their wishes were.

"It was unbelievable the way it fell into place. I knew that he wanted to donate if he could, then he collapsed and died at work in a hospital, and the way the donation process went on after that, it was incredible.

"I can see now how vital it is to know what your family members want after they've gone. It made it so much easier for me, and for Peter's father, to decide in favour of donation.

"Peter always wanted to help people. You can't go into our jobs without wanting to do the best you can for others. To be able to do that even after death is the most fitting tribute there can ever be to this sweet and gentle man.

"The wonderful knowledge that Peter's organs are now bringing new lives to four other people is just fantastic.

"I've received letters from some of them, and it's a great comfort to hear how they're progressing and how they owe their new health to the man I loved.

"It's amazing that I've worked in the NHS all my professional life yet I knew absolutely nothing about the organ donation process. It was a complete mystery what happened and how those that work in the field went about it. They did it all so professionally and sensitively. It left me quite awestruck."

Page last reviewed: 24/11/2014

Next review due: 24/11/2017