Susan's story

When Erin Bonar from Ballycarry sadly passed away at the age of five in March last year, her mum Susan and dad Karl agreed to donate their beautiful, little girl’s organs. Erin helped save and transform the lives of three young children and an adult.

Talking about her family’s experience, Susan explains why she is encouraging others to speak up and discuss their wishes early with their loved ones.

“Erin was 5 years, 4 months and 17 days old when she died. She has a twin brother Rhys and an older brother Jack (9). Erin was full of life, a very healthy and happy child who was enjoying her first year of primary school and was in the same class as Rhys. She loved to draw, paint and make things out of junk, she was very imaginative. Everything she drew or wrote, even her homework was coloured in so carefully in rainbow colours and she was always making little cards and gifts for people. She was friendly, chatty and smart and had a wicked sense of humour, always playing little jokes and tricks to make us laugh. 

“She was also more than a little adventurous, always climbing higher than everyone else and riding her bike as fast she could go.”

“She was not your typical little girl who liked dolls but instead had a serious obsession with Spiderman; we went on more than one shopping trip dressed like that. But she was also the kindest most determined little girl, she loved her brothers so much and looked after Rhys when I was not around, zipping up his coat and making sure he was ok.”

Erin fell ill very suddenly at home and despite being rushed to hospital and being cared for in paediatric intensive care the doctors were unable to save her. It was so sudden, in less than 24 hours she was gone, and her family was left in a state of shock and disbelief.

Susan says her family’s decision to donate, at a time of extreme grief, was made easier as Erin was a very generous and sweet young girl and already talked about her organ donation wishes, Susan is hoping others will do the same to help ensure loved ones aren’t left to make the final decision themselves during an intensely emotional time.

“Erin always wanted to help others as much as she could and one evening when the Public Health Agency’s TV advert ‘Speak up and save a life’ came on talking about organ donation she asked what it was about and we explained. She listened then said: ‘If something ever happens to me I would give my whole body to help other children’ – she was sure of what she wanted but we never thought any more about it until we were faced with a decision to make only months later.

“In the midst of our grief and dread of how to tell her brothers and the rest of the family, we were asked the question at the hospital if we would consider donating her organs. It was a very easy question to answer; there was no doubt because we had already had the conversation – at only five years old we knew it was Erin's wish and the answer was yes. The answer would still probably have been yes had we not had that conversation, but it took away any uncertainty that we were doing the right thing by her at the most harrowing time in our lives.”

“It brings us enormous comfort that her little life was not in vain. We now know that her heart still beats in a small boy somewhere and that makes us smile a little as having two brothers herself Erin always wanted to be a boy anyway!”

Changing the lives of four other people

Erin was able to donate her heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas to save the lives of four other people, three very young boys and a gentleman in his forties. 

“It brings us enormous comfort that her little life was not in vain. We now know that her heart still beats in a small boy somewhere and that makes us smile a little as having two brothers herself Erin always wanted to be a boy anyway!”

“One of the Specialist Nurses of organ donation who was involved in her care was in contact with us to assure us that Erin was treated with dignity and care at every stage and I know the emotional toll it has taken on the people involved. Organ donation is the most wonderful and selfless gift and that is most definitely recognised by the medical staff involved – we were kept informed and treated with respect at every stage.

“Our hearts are utterly broken, we will not see our beautiful daughter grow up and we miss her every single minute of every day, but because of her kindness, other families will not suffer the same heartache, she is a real life superhero! Erin brought us so much joy and love and now she has given that to four different families as well, we could not be more proud of her.

“We never thought it would happen to us but it did, everyone in my family is a registered donor and I would not hesitate to do it again. It has given us a lot of peace and a huge amount of pride in our daughter which helps on the really bad days. Organ donors are amazing, so are their families – be amazing, please talk to your loved ones about organ donation and let them know what your wish is, so they don't have to make that decision under the most difficult of circumstances.”