An Exmouth dad who eight years ago became ‘determined’ to sign up organ donors as a tribute to his daughter who died waiting for a lung transplant has completed his 650th rally.
Since the death of 37-year-old mum-of-three Sarah in November 2012, her dad Steve Gazzard, mayor of Exmouth, has organised 650 sign-up events and encouraged 6,622 people to become organ donors.
When we started in June 2012 when Sarah was alive, we never thought eight years down the line we would be marking 650 events…
Steve, a supporter of the ‘opt-out’ donor system coming into force this year on May 20, will shift his focus to fundraising when the law changes.
He aims to continue fundraising more than £4,000 a year to support British Lung Foundation research into chronic lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which Sarah battled before she died.
Steve said: “The other part of the campaign we set up was a research programme with the British Lung Foundation.
“Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis normally affects older men and women in their 80s.
“Nationally it seems to be jumping into young people and nobody knows why.
“We set up the research programme to see if there’s any idea why it attached itself to young people.
“We have to find over £4,000 a year in fundraising to find otherwise the programme will stop.”
Steve, who signed up another two during his 650th event, was in Exmouth’s Magnolia Centre on Friday, encouraging more people to become organ donors.
He said: “It’s a great tribute to Sarah. I still miss her. I would rather she was here. She lives on in three other people. I am sure they are extremely grateful.
“When we started eight years ago there was a lot of misunderstanding about being an organ donor. Over the eight years the attitude towards organ donation has changed for the better.
“When we started in June 2012, when Sarah was alive, we never thought eight years down the line we would be marking 650 events.
“I would like to say it’s a great credit to my team. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Sarah, of Featherbed Lane, Exmouth, had been on the waiting list for a double lung transplant for more than a year, but died before a suitable donor could be found.
It was during a family holiday in Spain when she developed a cough which doctors first thought was just a chest infection – but it did not go away.
She died aged just 37-years-old on November 9, 2012, surrounded by her family after a two-year battle with the chronic lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Sarah’s family donated her organs, which helped three people on the transplant list.
At the time, Steve said no one could explain why Sarah, or other young people, contract the illness.