Mother who lost husband, son in car crash days before Christmas opens up about donating their organs
Despite being devastated by the loss, when the mother was told that nothing more could be done to save them, she knew that they would both have wanted their organs to be donated
A family of four were looking forward to spending the Christmas holidays together and have a good time but their lives changed forever on the way back from a party.
A car crashed into the family vehicle as they were crossing a road close to Miskin, outside Cardiff, in December 2015 and it killed the father, Stuart Bates, instantly. The crash put son Fraser in the hospital in a state beyond any hope of recovery. He died a few hours later. Anna Louise Bates, the mother, and Elizabeth, the daughter who was only three at the time, were both uninjured. However, they have had to live with the loss of their beloved "boys", The Daily Mail reported.
Three years after her world came crashing down, Bates has now opened up about the tragedy and all the events that followed, especially the bittersweet joy that she gets from keeping in touch with the people whom "her boys" saved by donating their organs. Fraser's heart now beats in the chest of another little boy and the two frequently keep in touch.
When she was at the hospital in December 2015 in Bristol, the doctors gave her the tragic news. She knew that nothing more could be done to save her son but she also knew that both her husband and her son would have wanted their organs to be donated.
She said: "I knew because Stuart told me. It wasn't so much that we had had that conversation, before the crash he had told me it is what he wanted. What I didn't know was that it was going to be such an involved process. The form for Fraser took nearly two hours to fill in, with so many questions. Questions I never wanted to ever be answering."
Thank you so much @marklewisjones not only raising money for Believe but doing it in memory of @fraserbearbates and @stueybates ! Please support him .... he is already an iron man to us x pic.twitter.com/PFhDTwkEmY— Anna-louise Bates (@spanna_bates) September 8, 2018
Fraser didn't have the transplant operation until after the accident happened. She said: "I left the hospital on Sunday night, but then I was worried that I should have stayed with him. Leaving him at the hospital with his heart still beating was the hardest thing I had to do."
Bates continued: "I came home and there were so many people there for me, I have the most amazing family, but I was just there in the middle of it all watching the phone and waiting for it to ring to tell me that Fraser had had the operation. Then, I got a phone call at 8 pm the next day to tell me that the operation had been a success."
The donor families were not told who the receipients of the organs were and it is left up to the recipients and their families if they want to get in touch. The process also has to be done in writing and through the NHS Blood and Transplant department.
In the beginning, Bates was more or less resentful after she hadn't heard from any of the recipients of the organs. She said: "I thought it was quite rude that they hadn't been in touch to say thank you. A year went by, and still nothing, and I realized that it must be one of the most difficult letters to ever have to write. A letter to a parent who has lost a child."
Three years after the tragedy, the mother finally heard from some of the families that her son helped and now keeps in regular contact with the little boy who got Fraser's heart. She nervously explained: "I haven't met them in person, but we do keep in touch and they send me pictures. We haven't met yet."
One week after Stuart and Fraser died, Believe was launched at a balloon release that the mother organized in memory of her husband and son. The two of them had saved a few lives after all when their organs were successfully donated. The aim was to raise awareness by getting everyone from different age groups talking about organ donation.
When it hits you how far we’ve come x thank you to All who continue to support Elizabeth and I https://t.co/YcY2tKMKPm— Anna-louise Bates (@spanna_bates) November 12, 2018
Bates used to be a lawyer and wanted to be able to help other families through the tragic process. She also wanted to encourage other people to talk about the subject. She said: "Educating children about organ donation from a young age is key in my opinion. I want to help other parents to have the conversation by creating a conversation starter."
The organization has been a success with support from celebrities, meeting education officials to introduce awareness programs in schools and a fund to help other families like hers. Bates now wants to help other families who are in two different spectrums of the process: the donors and the recipients.
She said: "For a long time people were asking what we were going to do with the money that had been raised. I knew early on that something needed to be done. After Fraser died I was given three booklets in the hospital, three books with information in it that was difficult to take in. It would have been much better if there had been someone there to help you through it, to hold my hand through it."
Happy birthday to my mr wonderful @stueybates ! You may not be here with me so I can spoil you but the memories you and @fraserbearbates left me with and the love of Elizabeth guides me forwards to appreciate the #FABGiftOfLIfe ilywamhmw xxxx pic.twitter.com/xEwZJTnoJh— Anna-louise Bates (@spanna_bates) August 26, 2018
"There is so much help and support out there for people, but it is difficult to know where to find it. It is something Believe is looking at. Having volunteers there who can help you find what you need. It is such a tough process and it would be good to have that sort of support."
"For example, I went to speak at a Brake conference the other week and found out that they have a helpline that you can ring and access counseling. I also found out that Barnardo's can offer play therapy for Elizabeth, something I had no idea the charity organised. She had already had the play therapy offered by 2 Wish Upon A Star, but it is nice to know there is so much help and support out there, it is just difficult for people to find."
On the third anniversary of Stuart's and Fraser's deaths earlier this month, Bates took Elizabeth to "make memories" on a trip to Disneyland Paris. The mother explained: "I wanted to get away, to let all the other people who loved Stu and Fraser be able to grieve without having to worry about us and how we were."
She continued: "It was also to make memories for Elizabeth. The boys loved Star Wars so we went on that ride and talked about her dad and brother all the time. It was really good for her and now I have to find the strength to face Christmas."
"I was never someone who took life slowly, I am always on the go 24/7 and Stu was exactly the same. I am so grateful because we had 13 years together and we packed so many amazing things into those years that some people never do in 50 years. We did the same with Fraser. We did it all and that is what I am now trying to do with Elizabeth. Making memories for her in true Bates style."