Matthew Brown's final gift was his heart

WHEN Matthew Brown came off his motorbike at Eastern Creek on a stinking hot day in February with his father Russell watching in the stands, his family began the worst 48 hours of their lives with a single comfort.

In the weeks before the accident Matthew, 34, had done things he’d never done, or hadn’t for ages. He’d gone kayaking with his dad, sorted out his will, entered his pug Gemini in a dog show (which she won).

He’d told his mother Christine, firmly, that he wanted to donate his organs if he died.

“He’d always ridden bikes since he was a little boy. The person who got his heart, they got a perfectly strong heart,” Mr Brown said.

“Matthew had a massive heart.”

The Sunday he came off his Suzuki at 180 kilometres an hour, Eastern Creek had felt like the hottest place in the country. Matthew and Russell had journeyed down from the family home in Medowie, where Russell teased his son and daughter Michelle, 37, that he’d never get rid of them.

Matthew had a conversation with his dad in pit lane, the last one, mostly jokes. Then he took off.

“We had a phone call from Dad saying Matthew’s had a fall, and not knowing if he’d survive,” Michelle said.

“We rushed down to Sydney and he’d just come out of surgery. Then [Organ donation body] DonateLife asked if we intended on donating his organs.”

And as Matthew drifted through the final hours of his life, which ended soon after doctors told the Browns the blood had stopped flowing to his brain, organ recipients were being lined up to receive his kidneys, pancreas, liver and heart.

The Browns gave staff at Westmead Hospital their instructions, in line with Matthew’s wishes, for his organs to be harvested. It brought them solace, Mrs Brown said, staved off a bit of the helpless feeling.

“It kept our minds ticking over all the time,” she said.

“I think everyone should have the conversation with their loved ones, while they can. It’s not that hard.”

The Browns didn’t agree to everything; they didn’t donate Matthew’s eyes.

His organs were taken and transplanted inside five people.

His chest was flat when his family saw him again, his father noticed, not caved in. There were signs of a cut.

Speaking on Friday near the end of DonateLife Week, the annual drive for more people to register as donors, the Browns had just been forwarded a letter from the family of a 12-year-old boy who had received Matthew’s liver.

“You have saved another person’s life,” it read, “our little brother and son.”

People can register to donate their organs by visiting register.donatelife.gov.au.