Publish date: 15 March 2024

Twenty years ago today, Mahmud Nawaz, our Trust Chair, saw his life change within moments when he found Sharon, his wife of two years collapsed in the bathroom.

Sadly, Sharon was pronounced dead later that day after suffering a brain haemorrhage – and, having been a passionate advocate for organ donation, saved four lives, including that of an 18-month-old baby, by donating her kidneys and liver.

The care she – and he - received, drove Mahmud to become a fierce advocate and proud ambassador for organ donation and today, on the anniversary of one of the most difficult days of his life, he has told his story, in his own words, below.

"I married Sharon in October 2002. We were young, starting a life together and had just sold our house in Yeadon, north of Leeds, and were living with Sharon’s mother in Bradford for a couple of weeks before the new house was built and ready. We had planned to start a family and life was good.

"I was 33, Sharon just 32.

"On Monday 15 March 2004, the alarm went off and Sharon, as normal, got up and headed for a shower. I thought I heard a thud about 5.55am but Angel, our dog, didn’t react, so I didn’t think anything of it. However, a couple of minutes later, when Sharon hadn’t come out of the bathroom, I got out of bed and went to check. Luckily the door wasn’t locked.

"The shower curtain around the bath had been pulled down, and Sharon was lying in the bath – she was using the shower, but she’d collapsed, pulling it down. I thought she had fainted. I shouted her mum, and we called 999. The ambulance operator talked me through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but without any joy.

"The ambulance arrived quickly, they tried to resuscitate her without success. I hurriedly packed her some clothes as the ambulance team told me we had to go to hospital, and I knew she’d have hated to wake up naked in front of strangers.

"At Bradford Royal Infirmary A&E, the doctors worked frantically as I sat in the waiting room. They told me there was little more they could do and asked if I had considered organ donation. I was devastated and felt so alone. I’d never experienced death before.

"Sharon and I had talked about organ donation, and it was something about which she was passionate. She carried a donor card, but she never pushed anyone to carry one. I – I am sad to say – hadn’t registered at that point. Like many people in this country, I just hadn’t got round to it.

"Having said yes, I got introduced to Sean, the transplant coordinator who explained that Sharon would be moved to Intensive Care, to warm her body up for the transplant operation. The staff there were amazing – they showed such care for her and indeed for me.

"The brain stem tests the following day confirmed that Sharon had indeed died. As I learned much later, it was the most severe type of brain haemorrhage, like someone just turning the lights out.

"Sean – the transplant coordinator – was amazing. He looked after me through the whole process. It took me a few attempts to walk away from Sharon for the last time on Tuesday 16 March, before she went in for her transplant operation. Sean stayed with Sharon throughout the operation, which was a big comfort to me.

"Sharon’s organ transplantation was successful; her lungs and her heart could not be used because of the damage of the brain haemorrhage, but her kidneys and her liver (split into two) saved four people, including a little boy of one-and-a-half who wouldn’t have made it to two without Sharon’s liver. That above all made me cry tears of joy – she loved children, she would have been proud of that.

"I remain astounded by, and grateful for, the level of care and professionalism she was shown by the nurses especially. And I couldn’t have got through it without Sean, the transplant coordinator. The transplant coordinator – or Senior Nurse, Organ Donation as they’re called now – are there for the donor family to support you through that process. Finally, it is important for me to say that this was Sharon’s gift - not mine - to donate her organs, my memorial to her is to spread the word about organ donation and share my story and try to encourage everyone to register and tell their loved ones their wishes.

"I’ve been an Organ Donation Ambassador for NHS Organ Donation since 2018, in 2020 I became a non-executive director of Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust and was part of the stakeholder board for The British Transplant Games which came to Leeds in July 2022 I was honoured to be asked to lead out the donor family team at the 2023 Coventry British Transplant Games opening ceremony. The impact of this connection with the NHS hasn’t stopped there - since February of this year I have been appointed Chair of Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, with my first act to open a donor family memorial in the hospital and to share my organ donation experience! All of this has been motivated by that amazing gift of life through organ donation which started my strong connection with the NHS.

"I’m delighted now to have exchanged letters this year with that boy Sharon saved, now of course in his early 20’s.

"My plea is simple: You’re more likely to need an organ than donate one – and three people die each day waiting for a transplant. If just one more person becomes a donor because of sharing my story, it’s worth it, so please – have that chat with your family today!"