Matthew's legacy

A family left to pick up the pieces, another family redeemed through a gracious gift. EMMA SCHENK reports.

AN INSPIRATIONAL quote written on a family's whiteboard in a spare room might seem insignificant. 

Written in Matthew's handwriting, his mother Julie says it often makes her stop and remember her son - always chasing his dreams. 

It's one of many reminders of Matthew* in the family's home - not that they need reminding of their first born. 

Matthew, 34, lost his life to a severe asthma attack almost 12 months ago. 

The "A grade" tradesman in the Metal Fabrication Industry was known as daddy Matt, Uncle Matt and Cool Matt Rockstar - when he played songs to his nieces and nephews. 

He worked on the construction site of the new Royal Children's Hospital in 2012 to 2013, where he became aware of the plight of acutely ill children. 

As a result, he not only donated his organs but also living tissue to fund research into cures for childhood diseases. 

Julie said it was often an overlooked aspect of donation - but one Matthew felt strongly about.

"Hopefully this will lead to cures for diseases down the line, which have the potential to save many lives without a direct organ donation," she said. 

As well as the research, as many as eight people have benefited directly from Matthew's organ donation - some of who have contacted his family directly. 

It started with a letter of thanks from a recipient and grew to several letters and cards back and forth - celebrating Matthew's life and acknowledging his gift.

A photo of the quote was sent to all of Matthew's organ recipients - something Julie said would hopefully inspire them to follow in her son's footsteps and live every day with a sense of humour. 

"Matthew's legacy now gives his recipients and their families hope and a second chance to live a life's fulfilled journey," she said. 

"At this trying time as a mother of 34 years, it is an honour and a privilege and I'm so proud of my son that he has given the ultimate gift. 

"The recipients are eternally grateful for his selflessness."

The family have been quietly campaigning for the awareness of asthma and organ and tissue donation. 

Several of his friends signed up for organ donation in the hospital - others have been more aware to use preventatives for their asthma. 

And for now, Julie is brought comfort knowing her son changed the lives of others. 

"Having a sacrifice and a purpose for life - this is what makes us who we are," she said.   

The letter that left a mark

Four months have passed since I received that gift which saved my life. Since then, my thoughts have drifted often to you - the family - whose lives were also changed that night. The mixed emotions are overwhelming; I am awestruck by the altruism in the willingness to give, and humbled to have been the privileged recipient. I wanted you to know that you didn't just save one life that night - you also redeemed a family. After years, watching me become progressively sicker, you enabled my children and spouse to have their family unit back. A wise person once told me that we can cheat mortality by denying the ability to stop us achieving and having an impact, by continuing to improve the lives of others, despite having passed away. Every person is unique and nothing can make the premature departure of a loved one less tragic. But I want you to know that, with this second chance with which I have been gifted, in all my future achievements I will be giving credit to the giver. I hope this provides some measure of comfort. Words are so inadequate. I struggle to convey my feelings to you. But I want you to know that when I say thank you, I do so with all my heart. Yours sincerely.

*Matthew's surname could not be used, due to legal restrictions with organ donation. 

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