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It is through tragic circumstances that we welcome a new donor family member into the Transplant Australia community, Jane Richardson. Many of you were deeply saddened learning of the death of Jane’s daughter, Milly Soderstrom, 8, who drowned in the bath tub while at home with her family in Maitland, NSW in September this year.

Today, Jane has written an intimate account of what happened that day and tells how organ donation helped her to cope with immense loss. These are her words.

By Jane Richardson

One afternoon, late 2015 and my 2 youngest daughters Ivy 10 and Milly 8, were home from school. The doctor had been the night before and diagnosed them with the flu- “Stock up on kids Panadol, Nurofen and get something for their throats, it may help with their coughing as well,” he advised. Which is what I did that morning.

Milly came with me to the shops, she was in her PJ’s so she stayed in the car which was parked just outside the door while I dashed into the chemist.

Driving home Milly put her window down and said “It’s a nice sunny day, Clare would like this day, don’t you think Mum?” She was referring to my late sister.
I smiled and replied, “Yes she would baby girl.”

Once at home, Milly did some colouring in and then dozed off to sleep on the lounge.
She woke up a couple of hours later and asked for some toast. “Just give me the knife Mum- that’s the dangerous part – I can do the rest myself.” I laughed at her independence and handed her a bread and butter knife.

Meanwhile, Ivy went to have a bath. The warm water helped to soothe her aches and pains so I was happy to let her soak in the tub. Ivy came out after about 15 minutes and Milly said, “Hey Ivy, is the water still in there? I’ll have a bath too. Mummy, can I?”
“Sure can, it will make you feel better” I said and patted her on the arm as she ran past into the bathroom.

Milly Soderstrom

Milly (front) with sisters Ivy and Piper.

I could hear her coughing and chatting in the bath, and she kept turning the tap on and off. I went in and said, “Hey missy, stop using the water, other people need to shower tonight”.
She wriggled down and turned off the taps, and went back to her spot at the end of the bath.
“Is Terry coming over tonight?” she asked.
“Yes, he’ll be here any minute!” I said as I walked out of the bathroom.

It was the last conversation I would have with my beautiful 8year-old daughter Milly Hope.
Terry, my long term boyfriend turned up minutes later as predicted. Ivy was lying on the lounge watching television and I was reading a book. Terry was on his phone and mouthed the words “5 minutes”. I gave him the thumbs up and went back to my reading.

After a few minutes I noticed that Milly was no longer chatting out loud so I asked Ivy to go and check on her sister. Ivy jumped up and ran into the bathroom, I followed not expecting anything to be wrong.

“Mum! I think Milly has had a seizure,” Ivy yelled. (Milly had suffered febrile convulsions, when she was a toddler but hadn’t had one for more than five years).
I entered the bathroom to see my baby girl lying on her side under the water. I dragged her out of the bath while yelling at Terry. He ran in immediately saw she Milly wasn’t breathing and started CPR.

Milly Soderstrom

Milly Soderstrom

I grabbed my phone and dialed 000 telling Ivy to run across the road and get help from a neighbour.

Within minutes my world changed. As Terry and my neighbour Phoebe performed CPR I relayed information to them from the Triple 0 operator.

Ivy called out, “I can hear the ambulance Mum”. And was jumping up and down and waving her arms in the front yard. Seconds later the paramedics were in the bathroom and took over the CPR bringing her out to the lounge room and drying her off before using a defibrillator which restarted her heart almost immediately.

But Milly was not breathing. She was being stabilized on a resuscitator.
Other neighbours had arrived by this time and were holding me back as I screamed, yelling out “Oh my God, Oh my God” over and over and over. Disbelief and grief washing over me in waves, a moment I will never forget.

Terry and Phoebe were standing there with blood on their faces saying “Jane, Jane, Jane”. Sadness etched within every word. In no time at all we were in the Intensive Care Unit, my daughter Milly facing the fight of her life.

Within hours we were told her brain had died. She would never wake up – she was clinically dead.

“It appears Milly has had a febrile convulsion caused by a high temperature and as a result she has drowned. She is dead”

 That is exactly what the doctor said. “Now, you need to decide what to do. She will not wake up ever. I’m sorry.” He meant to ask, when would you like us to turn off the machines? When will you sit by her side and watch her heart take its last beat?

Milly SoderstromNever. I decided. Not when she is so healthy, not my Milly who can potentially help other children. I was defiant, I would not let other parents go through this pain if I can help them.

Organ donation was the answer to my grief, the only hope in a hopeless situation, the only thing which would bring me any kind of relief to the pain which had consumed my world.
I wanted her to live on in others.

So began 24 hours of sheer torture as doctors worked to keep Milly stable. Her dad, our family, our closest friends and I all sat by her side holding her hands, talking to her, stroking her hair and playing her music. She looked so peaceful and beautiful.

During that 24 hours they worked to find suitable recipients for Milly’s organs and tissues. Samples were dispatched with speed and urgency as phone calls and information was shared.
Then it was time to say goodbye.

A minister came in and gave Milly her last rights and a lovely man played his guitar for her. It was quite possibly the saddest moment of my life. “Look after my baby,” I said to the surgeons as they wheeled her away. They nodded their heads with respect.

I would never see her again. Milly has since saved 4 lives.

Milly playing her guitar.

Milly playing her guitar.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Lynette Hill says:

    Thank you for sharing your story about your little angel Milly……This is a very difficult time for you and your family. You have lots of lovely memories of Milly which I know you will treasure forever. Your gift of organ donation has helped so many other families….no words can ever express their gratitude…… I too have lost a son through drowning 26 years ago….he was only 3…wasn’t able to be an organ donor. In our family we have also been through organ donation……, tomorrow 1st December it has been 10 years since my son’s beautiful girlfriend Amanda was pronounced brain dead and helped 2 people through organ donation. Take care…..talk about Milly to others and her wonderful gift…….God bless you and your family.

  • Michele Moore says:

    I am so over whelmed with emotion reading about the tragic loss of your daughter. The worth of families so empathetic and and unselfish like yours while hurting and grieving through your loss, is an experience we could not even contemplate. I have always been greatfull to the beautiful family who would have been in similar circumstances as your own when I received my kidney. I cried for that families loss when I went into surgery and I often rub my kidney and say thank you. Tonight I shed another tear for you and again for my donar family. R I P Milly Little Angel

  • Leonie Mollov says:

    You are an amazing mother. So courageous and strong. Aisha (my sister) told me how adorable Millie was, an angel . My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Know that you are as much an angel as your Millie for saving lives of innocent children who had no other hope .
    Sending you strength and much love.
    God bless x

  • Leah Robinson says:

    Oh Jane no words can explain the tears rolling down my face, I have a beautiful baby girl who is 8 and loves her bath too – how tragic for you and your family is indescribable, but I also have another beautiful baby girl who is 18 now who wouldn’t be here today without a mum like you who gave the gift of her daughter’s organ donation to my baby at the age of 2. You have done something more powerful than you could ever imagine it to be. My daughter lives and breathes and works and drives and dances and smiles each day because of the wonder of you xo

  • Wendy Lovett says:

    Thank you share your story about Milly. You are one very strong and an amazing Mum. I fully understand the pain of Seizures as I watched my eldest Boy suffer 12 Febrile Seizures and to see/watch them go through these are harendous. I watched my baby stop breathing on many occasions, froth at the mouth, stiff body, jerking, eyes rolling in the back of his head and turning blue. They wanted to put Bailey on Epilepsy Medication but I wouldn’t allow it as it would also cause long term affects. I’m a very lucky Mum to still have my boy here but I know he has some delayed learning with his memory, speech and communication. Thinking of you and your family and what a wonderful thing to know your precious Milly has already saved lives. RIP Milly xx

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