A light in the dark: Mark’s Legacy

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At his Requiem Mass in St. Joseph’s Church in Galliagh back in April 2001, Mark Robinson’s death was described as having descended like an ‘uninvited intruder’ that had robbed him of his future.

During the Requiem Mass, Fr. Francis Bradley also spoke of how Mark’s decision to become a transplant donor in the weeks prior to his death had resulted in his uncle Lawrence (Lornie) having the heart transplant he so desperately needed. It was a chink of light in the dark for the Robinson family as they struggled to come to terms with Mark’s killing.

And soon afterwards, Mark’s parents learned for the first time that Mark himself was the father of a young child, Emmet and a close bond formed between the family and the little boy.

Fifteen years on, Emmett - now in his mid-teens- is doing well in school, while transplant recipient Lornie is described as “flying.”

Recalling events back in April and May of 2001, Mark’s brother Warren said: “Lornie was in the City Hospital and was in a bad way.

“At the same time Mark was in Intensive Care in the Royal Victoria Hospital and the people looking after him brought us into a room. They told us that they had been trying, but there has been no brain activity for the past few days. They were talking about turning the machine off and we asked them would they like Mark to donate his organs?

“Mark had been up visiting Lornie in hospital a week or two before that and knew his heart was failing.

“He came across a donor card, signed his name to it, never thinking he would be helping Lornie himself. My mother still has that card.”

After agreeing to Mark’s wish to donate his organs, the family had no idea what the hours afterwards would hold.

Warren said: “We were in the Royal’s Intensive Care Unit. We all said our goodbyes to Mark. We left and made our way to Derry. We got back to the house and I was standing at the door and the phone rang. It was my other uncle and he said to my mother: ‘Marian I’ve got good news for you.’ My mother answered, ‘How could you have good news for me today?’ and he said, ‘Lornie is getting Mark’s heart’ and the house exploded into cheering.

“Coming down that road we were felt ‘we are going to two funerals that week’ because Lornie was hours away from dying. That news came through and people were ecstatic. It was very, very surreal what had happened.”

Lornie was flown to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and the operation was successfully carried out. But he wasn’t the only one to receive the gift of life. Mark’s lung was donated to a man in England.

Recalling the type of person his brother was, Warren said: “Mark would have given you his last, but would have cried your last off you too!

“He was a bit of a character. He had his demons. He was suffering with epilepsy and different things. He had his own issues to deal with, a typical young fellow. He got involved in stupid things, got into fights with people, but he showed a lot of love to our family.

“When my son was born - he is 21 now - Mark took him down to a sports shop on the Strand Road where B&M is and he bought him a wee baby Man. City Football rig. We have still got that in the house.

“He was not just a statistic at the end of the day. He was a young fellow enjoying his life and getting on with his life. He was only 22.

“He had his full life in front of him. These people stole it from him.”