Adelaide mum-of-two Kylie Black, 29, will never forget the day her younger brother Matthew passed away after a tragic choice went terribly wrong. But she and her family take comfort from knowing that another young man lives a happy, full life because Matthew donated his organs. She told her story to Alexandra Carlton:
It was 9AM when my brother Matthew’s friends and family sat in the intensive care waiting room at Royal Adelaide Hospital to find out whether we would ever see him alive again. Most of us had been there since the early hours of the morning. There would have been 50 of us there but we sat in total silence. I’ll never forget the sound of the ticking clock in the room. It was so loud. That awful sound ticked on and on. It felt like it was ticking the last seconds of my brother’s life.
Eventually, the doctors delivered the worst news I would ever hear. Matthew had suffered too much brain damage to survive. There was nothing more they could do.
We were led into Matthew’s room to see him one last time. He looked exactly like he always did – shaggy blonde hair, same strong, healthy body. He was breathing. It looked like he was sleeping, like there was nothing wrong with him. I couldn’t believe my beautiful baby brother, who had been school captain and loved football and tennis and squeezed me in a giant bear hug whenever he saw me, was really gone.
My handsome, hilarious Matthew had only just turned 18.
I’ll never know exactly what happened the day Matthew died. He’d had a fight with his girlfriend and tried to scare her by trying to harm himself. I think it was an impulse, nothing more. I don’t think he meant it to go as far as he did. She found him, and tried desperately to save him but she was too late.
It’s been very difficult to make sense of it all. Even years later, I go over and over it again in my mind. I can’t ever forget the moment I got the call in the middle of the night that something had happened. I bawled my eyes out and my half-brother Damien raced to my side while we waited to go to the hospital. I’ve had a lot of counselling. Journalling has helped.
You never get over something like that. But I have one comfort. in my brother’s sudden death is that he was able to help six other people by donating his organs, including a young man about Matthew’s age who now carries his heart.
Moments after we learned Matthew had died, we were approached by Nigel, the organ donation coordinator at the hospital. Matthew’s drivers licence said he wanted to be an organ donor. It was all a blur, but we decided donating his organs is what Matthew would have wanted. He was the kind of person who always wanted to help other people. He was always there with a smile or a hug if someone needed it.
We were able to donate Matthew’s heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, corneas and skin.
Around the first anniversary of Matthew’s death I received the most wonderful gift. It was a letter from the person who has Matthew’s heart. He’s a young guy, only 21. He had a heart condition that meant without Matthew, he mightn’t be alive today. He told me how grateful he was, but also told me that the first thought he had when he discovered he was getting a new heart was to feel a great sadness because someone else must have lost their life.
He told me that every year, on the day of his transplant he takes a quiet moment. He sits on the beach and thinks of Matthew and the gift he gave.
We’ve exchanged letters since, and I’ve even seen photos of him on holiday and working overseas. Matthew and I had made plans to go travelling together but we never got the chance. It’s amazing seeing this man being able to travel. It’s like he’s taking Matthew with him.
I will never forget my brother. We were so close. My strongest memories are of those silly conversations that only brothers and sisters can have. Sitting around not doing much, just hanging out and playing games. Taking trips on our uncle’s boat. Just being with each other.
I want people to realise how special organ donation is. Nothing can ever bring my brother back but I get a sense of comfort from knowing that someone else’s life is better because of him.
I’m forever grateful that a part of Matthew lives on.