George Higginson, the Lancashire hero who saved five lives
His life was cut short by a tragic accident, but George Higgingson is the inspiration behind a campaign to save people with grave illnesses. Roger Borrell reports
His life was cut short by a tragic accident, but George Higgingson is the inspiration behind a campaign to save people with grave illnesses. Roger Borrell reportsChristmas is a time when we count our blessings and there are five people who will, no doubt, spare a few moments in quiet contemplation during this festive season giving thanks to a remarkable little boy from Lancashire. He gave them the greatest gift they’ll ever receive - the gift of life.On August 13, 2009, George Higginson left his home in Overton, near Lancaster, to show off his new bike to a pal. He never returned. The unthinkable had happened - a pick-up truck collided with his bike and ten-year-old George suffered head injuries.He was taken by North West Air Ambulance to the Royal Preston Hospital and on to the Manchester Children’s Hospital, where he died the next day.But George wasn’t just another sad statistic. Despite his tender years he had already told his parents that if anything were to happen to him he would want to be an organ donor. Sarah and Jonathan honoured his wish and now they are urging us to follow his selfless lead.In their first magazine interview - ‘we don’t relish being in the public eye,’ says Sarah, ‘but this campaign is important to us’ - they are calling for a change in the law to save more lives through organ donation and to urge us all to support fundraising for the Air Ambulance.George was what’s known as a ‘gold standard donor’ - the rest of his body was unharmed by the accident. His lungs were given to a 15-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis, a 17-year-old boy with a couple of days to live received his liver, his kidneys went to different people along with his pancreas and the fifth person to benefit was a four-year-old whose rare genetic disorder meant she required a new heart.Sarah, a nursing sister in Lancaster, says: ‘George had been watching something on the television about organ donors and one of us asked him if he would do that. He replied: “Of course. Why wouldn’t you?”‘I know I’m biased, but George was just a bit different. While others were playing football, he was reading about science and astronomy. He often had his nose in my medical books. I asked him if he thought he might follow in my footsteps but he said it would be too sad dealing with people who were dying.‘He was kind, caring and very thoughtful. That’s why he said what he did about being a donor. It was a very poignant thing for a child to say.’With that in mind, it was his father Jonathan who raised the issue of organ donation with the doctors once he and Sarah realised their eldest child wasn’t going to pull through.‘It might seem strange but I think we were lucky,’ says Sarah. ‘Someone who helps people over these tragedies told us that they had dealt with 50 families and this was the first case of organ donation. It’s a sad fact that children are always going to die but it’s a great comfort to know that others have benefited from George’s gift.’Jonathan, who is a builder, adds: ‘It makes you proud to know that good has come out of something that was so terrible. We also hope that a greater good can come from our awareness campaign.‘We are not advocating presumed consent. We know some people are uncomfortable with that and it takes away the gift element. What we’d like to see is a mandatory choice which would mean saying yes or no or leaving the decision to next of kin.‘The legislation would respect people’s views and take into account issues such as religious objections.’This had formed the basis of a Private Member’s Bill put forward by a local � MP until he lost his seat when the coalition took office. ‘This really isn’t a party political issue, but it seems we are going to have to start from scratch.’The Bill would be a fitting memorial to George but, in the meantime, there is plenty to remember him by. ‘His younger brothers, Max and Henry, are typical boisterous boys,’ says Sarah. ‘George wasn’t like that.’He was one of those lads whose sunny disposition illuminated the gloomiest of days and he was particularly excited by the news his mum and dad were expecting their fourth child. ‘In fact, he was giddy with it,’ laughed Jonathan.Sarah was 19 weeks pregnant with James when the crash happened, giving birth on December 23 last year. ‘Amid all the terrible sadness, he was the best Christmas present you could have,’ says Sarah.Today, George lies in the local churchyard but his spirit still touches many members of the community. His rare passion for science and astronomy meant he had the nickname ‘Overton’s Little Scientist’ at the village’s St Helen’s Primary School.‘The teachers said that sometimes they found themselves being the pupils,’ says Jonathan. Since the accident, his classmates have been given special copies of George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, a science book for children by Lucy and Stephen Hawking, and several telescopes have been donated to the school. There is also a school science prize in his name.George might be lost, but he won’t be forgotten - especially if he is the inspiration that gets the law changed.