Watch: Drew Abela saved seven lives. Now his grieving relatives want others to do the same
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Watch: Drew Abela saved seven lives. Now his grieving relatives want others to do the same

Relatives of organ donors need all the help they can get

Johann Caruana's TV ad to raise awareness about the required support for relatives of organ donors. Mr Caruana took part in the initiative together with other Mcast students.

Organ donors leave behind relatives who need all the support they can get, especially when they keep thinking about the physical remains of their loved ones, the parents of a 20-year-old donor say.

Drew Abela passed away suddenly after suffering a brain haemorrhage in summer 2016. For his family and friends, he will be remembered for his gentle nature but for seven people who received his organs, he is a lifesaver.

Drew AbelaDrew Abela

In dealing with the tragic loss of their son, his parents, Sharon and Kenneth, funnelled their energy into the Life After Drew campaign.

In collaboration with the Transplant Support Group Malta, the campaign is raising awareness about the need of organ donation, encouraging others to register as donors and calling for a support structure that guides surviving relatives through the process.

“There are some misconceptions that keep cropping up in relatives’ minds about organ harvesting or being unsure that the deceased person has actually passed away. Relatives need continuous reassurance. In our case, the medical team was very caring and treated Drew with dignity,” Mr Abela told Times of Malta

As the Be A Hero, Become A Donor campaign picks up steam, Ms Abela noted that some relatives found it difficult to give their consent if the deceased family member had not registered as a donor. She, therefore, encouraged people to register and help put their relatives’ minds at rest.

She acknowledged there were several other families like hers and, commending their life-saving decisions, Ms Abela urged them to help out with the campaign.

Relatives are still dealing with the tragic loss

The effect of the loss on the surviving relatives struck a chord with Johann Caruana, a former Mcast student. The college joined forces with the campaign, raising awareness through an exhibition by fine arts students, a show by performing arts pupils, documentaries by the journalism department, a new brand identity for the support group by graphic design students and TV adverts by those following the creative media degree.

“I recall the day that Sharon shared with us photos and footage of Drew. The reality of a ‘normal’ youth who helped out so many people after his death hit us hard,” the 21-year-old, then a second-year student doing Mcast’s creative media productions degree, told the Times of Malta.

“But Drew also left behind relatives who are still dealing with the tragic loss and it dawned on me that it is not only important to encourage people to sign up to become donors but also to support the surviving family,” he remarked.

Mr Caruana’s short clip required the help of three fellow students and the purchase of new equipment. However, he feels the impact it could have even on one person was all worth it.

His clip revolves around a surviving relative sitting down in front of an empty vase that is slowly filled up by red and white flowers handed out by supporting people. The flowers’ colours symbolise blood and deceased donors while both colours are also a reminder of the Maltese flag.

One can become a donor in minutes by either registering online using one’s e-ID details, sending the application form by e-mail, or by post.

Look up the Facebook page called Transplant Support Group – Malta or log onto www.transplantsupport.org.mt for more information on how to become a donor.

Kenneth and Sharon Abela, and Johann Caruana (left to right). Photo: Matthew MirabelliKenneth and Sharon Abela, and Johann Caruana (left to right). Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

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