Verity Blackman appeared on the TV series Helicopter ER to talk about the sudden death of her 76-year-old husband Geoff in September 2020.
The couple, who had been married for 51 years, were driving near their home city when Geoff, the president of Ripon Rotary Club, began to experience chest pain and was unable to control the car.
Verity had to steer the car to the roadside and then flagged down passing motorists who performed CPR. Although Yorkshire Air Ambulance sent a helicopter based at RAF Topcliffe to the scene, Geoff had suffered a massive cardiac arrest and passed away four days later in Harrogate District Hospital.
Verity said: “He started gasping as we were driving and I noticed he was going to pass out so I steered the car off the carriageway.
"I realised it was a heart attack or a stroke and all the time, my eyes were going to Geoff lying on the grass. Someone stopped, a woman who I have no idea who she was and she put her arm around me and said come away and then I heard some shout he’s got a pulse he’s breathing, but his face was still blue so I knew it was serious.
“The consultant came and told me that they had done a scan and there was serious brain damage. I said in that case I couldn’t let him go on like that. Geoff and I had had that important conversation several times. Neither of us wanted to live without a quality of life. I said that I did not want him kept on life support if there was no hope of recovery.
"I gave my permission for his organs to be harvested and stayed at the hospital until 1.45am the next morning and the doctors came to tell me that all the tests had been carried out and that the organs were suitable for donation. They removed the ventilator and I held his hand and said darling it’s time to go.”
Geoff’s wish to be an organ donor subsequently saved the lives of two people who received his kidneys.
“He would be pleased that his wishes to be an organ donor were carried out. His kidneys found patients both of whom were on dialysis, and just before Christmas last year I received a letter from a lady who had received one of his kidneys. She was in her 60s and had suffered kidney disease for many years. She hadn’t expected to live until that Christmas and she thanked me for saving her life.
“There’s a phrase called ‘the kindness of strangers’, which I experienced that day. Total strangers I had never set eyes on before, and they stopped and they helped and did everything they could to help him and comfort me."
Her husband had been a Rotarian for 40 years.
“He was a man who gave, and gave himself and his time to other people. He was always willing to help people if he had the knowledge and they wanted help. He didn’t judge people, he saw the best in them.
“When someone is a registered donor and they can be a donor, it is important that they are quickly taken to a hospital and the air ambulance is very important is this situation.”