Teenager with ‘heart of pure gold’ saves three lives with organ donors
All Ben Glean wanted for his 18th birthday was a new guitar.
And as a responsible young adult he was proud to join the organ donor register.
With his whole life ahead of him, the budding musician seemed to be fighting fit.
But just three months later he had a cardiac arrest and within days was declared dead.
His mum Karen said: “All his life we had no idea he’d been type 1 diabetic. By the time we knew, his body went into shutdown and he was gone.
“My heart was ripped to pieces. But even in that despair I knew what I had to do.”
Karen told doctors at Grimsby’s Diana Princess of Wales Hospital she wanted his organs to save others.
Ben died shortly before Christmas 2017. The day before the funeral a letter arrived with news his organs had saved three people. A man aged 52 received Ben’s liver and two men in their 30s got his kidneys.
Karen, 50, said: “Reading three families had the best possible Christmas was amazing – Ben would’ve been so proud.
“Ben’s heart was pure gold. His final Facebook post was asking people to donate old coats to help the homeless and he wanted to serve his community by joining the police.
“I’m just so glad he made his feelings on organ donation clear to me. Donating his organs saved others’ lives but finding something positive out of something so horrific also saved me from my grief.” Karen and son Michael, 24, moved to Cardiff to start a new life and in the coming months would regularly read that letter, wondering who those recipients were.
She was allowed to send letters about Ben to each but without any personal details, due to anonymity regulations.
In February the NHS allowed her to add her email address – and days later her prayers were answered when she checked her inbox. She was contacted by Steve Dunster, a 52-year-old electrical engineer who was saved by Ben’s liver.
Steve had been dying from liver cancer and had months left if a donor was not found. Karen, a civil servant, finally got to hug him when they met in Brighton at the end of a 100km charity run he did.
“It was amazing to think this man in his 50s could take on such a crazy challenge to raise money for the British Liver Trust thanks to Ben.
“Meeting Steve for the first time somehow made sense of Ben’s death. It was like hugging Ben again, feeling the warmth of his chest against mine. Ben would’ve been so happy to have met Steve and known what he’d done.” Last year, Karen started her Ben’s Beanies campaign to knit warm hats for the homeless in memory of her son – who would have turned 20 today.
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