It was the day he thought he’d never live to see. Diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, Graham Wagstaff did not think he would be alive to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
But after undergoing a life-saving transplant, the Albrighton businessman was able to fly to America, where daughter Helen Caverner now lives, and give her away. Now he is asking others to be inspired by his story to join the Organ Donor Register, upping the number of organs available for donation. Helen, who moved from Albrighton, said her father was close to dying before the op.
He had been suffering from congenital lung disease and at one stage was forced to temporarily close his business, Saturn Motor Company.
Helen, who attended Shrewsbury Sixth Form, said: “I got married in December and without that donor my dad wouldn’t have been there to walk me down the aisle.”
The 33-year-old moved to California around five years ago to follow her dreams of being a dancer and an actress.
It was there she met her husband Patrick, at one of the acting classes he teaches.
“I live in Los Angeles now, which is where the wedding was, so my family also had to come all the way out here.” explained Helen. “It was an interesting journey for dad with all the medication donor patients have to take.
“Dad’s speech was amazing, especially as he was speaking to a room full of Americans in a Wolverhampton accent.
“My family truly made it a fantastic time and now I want to help raise awareness about organ donation.
“We would like to thank the staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and maybe the family of the donor is out there somewhere, because to this day we don’t know where the donor came from.”
Mr Wagstaff, 68, who eventually reopened his business, said: “The wedding was a brilliant day and at one point I was not sure I’d make it, certainly not without a transplant. It was magic to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for transplant. There was a time I was on oxygen 24 hours a day.
“I never would have been able to make the trip to LA, in fact we had a place in Spain which we went to the September before I had my transplant that I didn’t think I would never be able to see again.
“My brother, Michael, had the same disease and died when he was 49, which was 16 years ago, so when I contracted the same thing it was a bit of a shock.
One donor can give multiple organs and tissue for transplant. There is no age limit to becoming a donor and a person’s physical condition is the deciding factor.
Mr Wagstaff said: “There are hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for organs.
“We hear so many sad stories and rarely a story like mine. Someone who said ‘yes’ gave me my life back.”