I was seventeen years old when South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first heart transplant on 3rd December 1967. As an arrogant, naive teenager I thought this meant an end to medical problems meaning we could all live our live as we wished and when something broke down it could be preplaced just like fitting a new part to a car. I had no idea how my life would be dominated by organ transplants.

It would have been round about 1974, perhaps 1975, when a mother of a boy at the school where I was teaching spoke to me about worries she had for her son. He had no effective functioning kidneys and had to hook herself up to a home dialysis machine every day. She said to me how she worried what her son was getting up to while she was hooked up to the life-saving machine.  I pondered that if I ever got married and had children of my own I should take out private medical insurance just in case one of them needed  transplant surgery.

I was married in October 1978. If Maureen and I could have asked for a perfect family it would be to have two sons followed by a daughter. But the Ashford Family did not have girls. The two sons came along: Peter and then Matthew. There was no scan available in the early 1980's to determine the sex of an unborn baby so we prepared for son number three who was to be called Mark.

There was also no Milton Keynes Hospital so Maureen was in The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury waiting for our new son to be born.

My paternal grandmother, Lily, longed for a daughter but never had one. Her husband had an older sister, born in 1883, Jessie, there had been no Ashford girls since. Lily had three sons and then four grandsons. Peter was her first great-grandson, followed by my brother's son Jonathan and then Matthew. She gave up all hope of seeing an Ashford girl.

I received a phone call from Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital telling me to make my way to Aylesbury as my baby would be born in about half an hour. I had to get the boys to Maureen's parents to be looked after and then make the long drive to Aylesbury, there was no way I could get there in half an hour !

Walking into the ward Maureen was holding our baby. She said to me: "Say hello to you daughter."

I replied: "A girl. Are you sure ?"

Smiling, Maureen said: "Go and phone your Nan."

In the public call box I said: "When are you coming to see your great-granddaughter ?"

Nan told me later that when she put the phone down she cried. My Nan cry ?  She was a formidable lady but at the age of 93 she had at last seen an Ashford girl. Rebekah was the first Ashford girl for one hundred years.

Our family was complete.  However, within her first year it became clear that Rebekah was not developing in the same way as her brothers. Peter walked at ten months of age, Matthew at nine months. By her first birthday Beck was not walking. She was not a happy infant. She refused to eat properly, food to her was a punishment. Our GP referred her to the newly opened Milton Keynes General Hospital. Within days of tests we were asked to take Rebekah back to the hospital for those tests to be repeated as results were not as they should be.  Those tests confirmed that Rebekah was suffering from chronic renal failure. This had been caused by a condition called reflux, when a person with reflux goes to the toilet urine back flows to the kidneys and damages them. Rebekah urgently needed an operation to stop the reflux, her failing kidneys would be supported as best they could through complex prescription of medication but the only way her life could be saved would be to receive a kidney transplant.

Maureen took Rebekah to Guys Hospital for that initial consultation on the train. I was running an overnight sponsored disco at Leon School, sponsored for a new charity in Milton Keynes, Willen Hospice.

I remember so well Maureen coming to the school in the evening to tell me the news, she had written everything down onto a piece of paper. I don't think I properly took everything in.

One week later Rebekah was in Guys Hospital having that operation to correct her reflux. By her side was he favourite doll, Chell. Chell was always with her in hospital and always went down to the operating theatre with her.

One receiving the loving medical care she needed Rebekah was a happy, cheerful little girl. I defy anyone to find a photograph of her where she is not smiling.

Plans were put in place for her to receive the life-saving kidney transplant she needed. The operation would be performed by Transplant Surgeon Geoff Koffman. He was a wonderful man. always known to the children and their parents as Geoff. He was a world-leading expert on paediatric transplant surgery but meeting him he was an ordinary, loving man. Years later a leading medic would say to me:  I do not treat my patients, I care for them. That was Geoff Koffman. But it was more even than that Geoff genuinely loved the children in his care.

Medical science had advanced so far since the days of Christiaan Barnard but there were no mobile phone in those days. As Rebekah went on call for a donor kidney we had a bleeper. Who remembers them ?

That bleeper went off just one week into Beck being on call. We raced to Guys Hospital and Geoff got to work. Even though she was seriously ill Rebekah had a powerful immune system. He body rejected the kidney on Day Thirteen, Geoff had to operate again and remove the failed organ.

Returning home she was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She went back on call for another donor kidney. The bleeper went off, we dashed to Guys Hospital in London, Geoff did his work and again on Day Thirteen Rebekah's powerful immune system rejected the kidney.

Guys Hospital is located right in the centre of London. Today it s next door to The Shard. It was easier for me to go to the outpatients appointment with Rebekah than it was for Maureen. Leon School, where I was head of year, was so supportive of me. From Headmaster Bruce Abbott to my teenage students all showed me love and support. Initially I used the train to London but, believe it or not, it was easier to drive. That would not be the case today !

I had to drive right through the City of London then over London Bridge and park in an NCP car park then walk the short distance to Guys Hospital. In 1993 the IRA detonated a bomb in Bishopsgate, blowing an enormous hole in he road and forcing me for months to come to make a detour when taking Beck to hospital.

Beck's medication and test results were meticulously recorded in a little green notebook by her consultant Doctor Susan Rigden. I seldom needed to look at the book, I knew the prescription by heart.

There was another occasion I remember when driving to Guys Hospital that was full of incident. British Rail, pre-privatisation, was on strike. Reaching our destination it was impossible to park. I had no choice but to park on double yellow lines and face the fine. Back then the police were in charge of parking, not local authorities and private cowboy parking companies. When I returned to the car, after the clinic and I do have to admit a visit to McDonald's the car was gone !  It had been towed away to a pound by the police. That police compound was miles away in Brixton. I took a taxi to collect it. Te taxi driver refused to charge me for he journey !  Such love.  It cost me £100 to get my car back, how much would that be in today's money ?

Consultant Sue Rigden wrote to The Metropolitan Police, explained the situation and asked that the parking fine be waived.  Immediately the Commissioner of The Met agreed and then went further, he refunded the money I had paid to get my car out of the pound ! Love.

I came to know Elizabeth Ward, an incredible lady. When her son, Timothy - better known as Timbo, died from renal failure she set up The British Kidney Patients Association. Very wealthy and with the highest connections Elizabeth had no problem telling politicians what they were going to do. Elizabeth could click her fingers and the leaders of industry and politics came running. While she could command at this level she always had time for people who were ill and receiving the help The British Kidney Patients Association was seeking to help. Love !  She knew Rebekah and gave our family personal support.

Elizabeth founded the Kidney Donor Card which went on to become the Organ Donor Card. Rebekah had one, on it she crossed out kidneys saying she would donate all of her organs but the kidneys were not of much use !

Beck was an active, happy child. I remember watching her playing in a hockey match at school. A boy standing watching said to another: Look at her, she could die any day but she is still playing. That was Our Rebekah.

Beck was not put on call for a third transplant. The idea of dialysis was played around with but the decision of the expert medics was that a live donor organ was the way forward. Both Maureen and I put ourselves forward to give Rebekah one of our kidneys..

I was in my office at Leon School when the phone rang. It was consultant Sue Rigden. Are you sitting down ? You need to be, it is you who is the best match for Rebekah !

OMG !  I had not been in hospital since being born in Heathfiled Road Maternity Hospital in Birmingham. It did not help when surgeon Geoff Koffman kept saying: You understand your operation will be far more painful than that of Rebekah's !  Geoff did I need to know that ?

I decided to use this dual operation and live donor transplant to support Elizabeth Ward and her work. I persuaded ITN to film the operations and broadcast a news special promoting the donor card.

Beck's illness was demanding on the family finances.  I started earning some extra money writing newspaper and magazine articles. These were published in 1994 in my book Not The Concrete Cows. There is a special feature on the work of Elizabeth Ward in the book. A woman's magazine offered me a very large sum of money to write a feature.  However, I had to write in a special format, paragraphs of so many words within their own editorial plan. I was not prepared to work like that so turned down the commission.

I went through test after test after test preparing for the dual operations.

It was about this time that I joined a small organisation which provided transport for transplant patients receiving the call to hospital where an organ was waiting for them. Shortly before Christmas we received a call. A little boy was being flown into Heathrow from Ireland, we were to meet him and take the family to Guys Hospital. With blue lights flashing and the siren wailing we raced through the West End of London with our precious passenger on board.

I have said how I was supported with love from Leon School, love from the headmaster to my teenage students. As the time for my becoming a live donor approached the board of governors voted to give me three months paid leave, if I needed longer it was there for me. They brought in a former deputy head to take my classes. They appointed a senior member of the school staff to take over my duties as Head of Year. He decided he was not going to have things done he way I operated my year group, there would be discipline, no more larking about as I had fun to move students along their days and achieve their best. My teenage students revolted and gave him hell. This moved into my classes where the former deputy headmaster and firm disciplinarian moved from one riot in the classroom to another.

Final preparations were being made at Guys Hospital. I went down for the final meeting ahead of my being admitted the next day. All was set for the television documentary, it was set for all the filming equipment to be sterilised and the film crew had passed medical examinations.

Geoff wants a word, I was told, he says can you wait until he comes out of theatre.

Maureen were shown into the little side room where medical staff always put parents when there was either bad news or a difficult decision to be made. I knew what was happening, after weeks of tests and preparation the dual operations were being cancelled. Maureen who was with me said I was wrong but I knew I was not.

We waited for more than an hour until transplant surgeon Geoff Koffman joined us. He came into the room still wearing his surgery robes, his mask about his neck and still wearing clogs. The operations were indeed being cancelled. After hours of agonising the team decided the chances of Rebekah rejecting my kidney were too high, although a person can live perfectly well with a single kidney it was felt the chances of failure were too high, the risk to my health made the operations unethical.  I pleaded, I begged but I could do nothing.

I was devastated, utterly devastated. I drove home in silence. That is the closest I have come to having a nervous breakdown. I did not go out of the house for two days.  I contacted Leon School and explained what had happened, I was told to take as long as I liked and only to return to work when I was ready.

The former deputy head, who could have demanded the school honour his three month contract, left and returned to retirement. The member of staff who taken over managing my year group said: They are your !  They won't listen to me !  I want nothing more to do with them !

Three hundred teenagers were seated in the school hall as they waited for assembly. They were not expecting me to walk through the door. As I walked down the isle to the front I could hear voices mumbling, I can still hear them clearly. He's back, why is he here ?  When the news spread about what had happened those teenagers wrapped me in their love.  I will never forget that. Never.

So Rebekah went back on call for a donor organ. With two failed and my being turned down as a live donor it would have to be a very close match. We waited and we waited. it was around this time that there was a suspicion Rebekah may have an appendicitis at some time in the future, this could not be allowed to risk a future transplant so it was decided to remove her appendix. World leader in paediatric transplant surgery, Geoff Koffman, said: I'm not having anyone else going in there, I will do the operation. He did ! There were smiles about Guys Hospital as medics put their tongues in their cheeks to ask if Geoff remembered how to undertake such a minor procedure.

I took Peter and Matthew to California, Beck was too ill to travel so Maureen took here to Somerset.  Our time in America was great. We drove way up into the California Redwoods, the world's tallest trees. We spent time in San Francisco, Yosemite Park, the Nevada Desert, South Lake Tahoe, Virginia City. In Los Angeles we went to Disney Land and to Universal Studio, we went to San Diego then crossed into Mexico to spend a day in Tijuana. From Las Vegas we flow the Grand Canyon. It was a very full two weeks.

I had driven overnight to Los Angeles, crashed out on Santa Monica Beach then flew overnight back to England.  Landing at Heathrow I was met by a friend who said: You are not to worry, Rebekah had a transplant yesterday. I will take you straight to the hospital.  My reply was: Can I go home and have a bath first !

The bleep had gone off while they were in Somerset. Maureen drove back to Milton Keynes where the little transplant ambulance charity I was involved in took them to Guys Hospital. When I saw Beck the first thing she said was: Look Dad my legs are pink. In renal failure her body was all white.

But just as before her strong immune system started to reject the kidney. We were taken into the little room where Consultant Sue Rigden explained the only chance to save the kidney, it was a desperate measure. The plan was to take all of Rebekah's blood out of her body via a tube inserted into her heart, the blood would be passed through a dialysis machine to filter out white blood cells then flow it back into the heart. By lowering her immune system it was hoped rejection could be stemmed.

But if she catches a cold, Consultant Sue Rigden said.

You will treat her, I interrupted.

That's the point, Sue said, we will not be able to.

Maureen and I knew what Rebekah would want so we agreed to the life-threatening treatment.

Hours went by, then days and still Beck was rejecting the transplant. Biopsy after biopsy was performed. Things were not looking good. Rebekah was in a ward on floor nine of Guys Tower. Guys Tower today is adjacent to and dwarfed by The Shard. I was walking to the lift on the ninth floor to go down to ground level and buy something from W H Smith. As the lift doors opened Sue Rigden came out, she beamed at me and said: Isn't it wonderful news ?  I must have looked blank fore she then said: Haven't they told you ? NO SIGN OF REJECTION !  Rebekah's kidney and her life had been saved, saved by that wonderful team of skilled surgeons and medics.

Progress was slow but certain, Rebekah would lead a full and happy life. As a family we moved into Ronald McDonald House, we were one of the first families to benefit from the very first Ronald McDonald House in the country. Again Leon School was so loving and supportive to me. I would commute from London to Bletchley for work !

Guys Hospital had its own school for children who were in hospital. That inspired Rebekah to want to work with children. Leaving school she went to Milton Keynes College and qualified as a nursery nurse. She went on with home study to gain many more qualifications. She became a member of staff at the crèche then located in Safeways Supermarket, now Morrissons, at Westcroft in Milton Keynes. When the supermarket closed its crèches she went to work at the crèche in The Centre MK where she became Deputy Manager. She worked at Broughton Manor Prep School and then Little Houghton Day Nursery.

She married Gary, a great man and someone I am proud to call my friend. It is joked that Beck taught Gary about shopping and he taught Beck about football. Gary is a Sheffield Wednesday fan and now so am I. I love my visits to Hillsborough and am proud of the little sponsorship we have at each game.

The years Beck was married to Gary were so happy but he transplanted kidney which she always called Louise was losing its function.

It was not going to be easily possible for Rebekah to have another transplant, he already strong immune system had been made even stronger by years of anti-rejection medication. It was considered that I could again go forward to be a live donor but again medics would not pursue that course of action. She was again in and out of hospital, attending clinics in both University Hospital Milton Keynes and Churchill Hospital in Oxford. On one occasion I either drove her to a clinic or visited her in hospital every day for four weeks.

Knowing my love of music, Beck would get into my car and say:  I don't mind if you play your music Dad. Mind or not I was going to play it.

Her text messages to me always began: I am sorry to be a pain but...............

Rebekah died suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday 19th May 2019. She would have died as a small child had it not been for the skills of her medical team and the love of a family whose little boy died tragically. They donated his organs among them Rebekah's kidney Louise.

Rebekah's consultant was Doctor Phil Mason. When she died he said to me: I do not treat my patients, I care for them. Throughout Rebekah's life that was how she was looked after - the medication treated her, the doctors and nurses cared for her. Isn't that how it is throughout our National Health Service.  I love our NHS and I have been a passionate supporter of University Hospital Milton Keynes since the day it opened its doors. This is not a transplant centre but it is the first port of call for those in the area who will intimately need a transplant.

Going way back, Elizabeth Ward said to me she could imagine a time when a physical donor card would not be needed, it would be natural for people to donate their organs. Very son a new law will come into effect saying it is assumed you will donate your organs on your death unless you have specifically said you do not wish to. Families will have the power to say NO to donation. Thank goodness that family who had lost their young son did not say no to Rebekah's kidney Louise. This law will ease the situation but it will not solve it. When a family is in tragedy it is not easy for them to focus thoughts on organ donation.

As you have read, organ transplantation is something I have been around for more than thirty years.  I do my bit to raise awareness of organ donation but I am not certain how effective I am. Do you believe in Destiny ?  I have spent three days writing this page on the website and as I am now coming towards the end I can feel Destiny tapping on my shoulder.

I put the television on to watch the news. There was a feature telling a lovely story. It is a fact that if you are an Afro-Caribbean or Asian person your chances should you need a transplant are close to zero, there just are not the donors. This news item told of an Islamic mother, she was a GP, whose child needed a transplant but within the Islamic community organ donation has mixed feelings. Her father was Imam of the local mosque. They were able to find a life-saving donor for the child. Perhaps in raising awareness of the need for donors special emphasis needs to be put to help Afro- Caribbean and Asian People.

The next day I watched a brief documentary about The Transplant Games. This annual event is fun, it is a celebration of the life saving transplants received by those taking part but it is also a way to thank the donors and their families.

The 2020 British Transplant Games will be held at the University of Warwick in Coventry from Thursday 30 July until Sunday 2 August 2020. I will be there and plan to use this event within my work to promote organ donation.

So are you an organ donor ?  Quite simply - IF NO WHY NOT.

When you die do not take your organs to Heaven, Heaven knows we need them here.

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© David Ashford The Geriatric DJ