Robert Ginnifer helped save the lives of five strangers - all because he took two minutes to sign up to the organ donor register. Joanna Davis reports.

WHEN Robert Ginnifer turned 40 he had a lot of life ahead of him.

The father-of-two from a close-knit Irish family had settled in Weymouth after previously living in Southampton.

He drove for Weyline taxis and had made many friends in the seaside town he came to call home.

No-one could have foreseen that he would develop a brain aneurysm and pass away in Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, just two months later.

Robert's father Jerry, who lives in Cork, Ireland, dashed to his son's bedside.

Jerry said: "It was a shock because it was so sudden. Everyone at the hospital was excellent with us. We were kept informed every step of the way and when we learned Robert couldn't be helped we came to learn he was an organ donor."

Because Robert had taken a couple of minutes to sign up to the register, his decision meant that in death he had given the most extraordinary gift anyone can.

His organs were harvested and transplanted to five patients.

Robert's aunt Joss Baker, of Charlton Down, near Dorchester, said her family finds comfort knowing some good has come from the sudden tragedy.

She said: "We know that Robert has gone on to help five other people.

"It was heart-breaking that we lost him but we find comfort knowing that someone out there is part of Robert and he's living on in a way."

Nearly six years on from losing Robert on April 19, 2013, his family gathered at Dorset County Hospital to remember him with a minute's silence.

They returned to the hospital for the official unveiling of a Precious Scars tree sculpture which celebrates the gift of life from donors like Robert.

Joss said: "The minute's silence was beautiful. Everyone who was there was feeling it too.

"We're all so proud of the fact that these people gave the gift of life to others. It's a lovely thing and it keeps you going knowing that out there somebody has Robert's heart.

"Robert saved five lives - that's a comfort in itself. Talking about it is good and going to see the sculpture helped, seeing the other families there brings it home to you. We know that there have been lots of other people in our situation.

"The gift of life is so precious. It's the best gift you can give."

The sculpture unveiling also gave Robert's family the chance to thank the hospital staff who cared for him.

Erin, 13, and Callum, 11, chose to come and see the tree and said the ceremony celebrating the sculpture made them feel 'proud' of their father.

The family also said a prayer at the hospital in memory of Robert.

Joss said her nephew was a friendly character.

"Once you met Robert and shook his hand, he was a friend for life. He had a smile as big as the Irish Sea. He was an amazing father and a genuine young lad who loved life," she said.

Joss said the family's difficult conversations about the use of Robert's organs were made much easier by the sensitivity of Dorchester hospital staff.

"We're so grateful for what they do. How understanding, how sensitive they are," she said.

"They are amazing. I can't thank the staff at the hospital enough. All the doctors, nurses, the night staff, they were all amazing, right up until the last minute. They are so good at what they do, every member of staff gives 100 per cent. We felt so cared for by the hospital."

Joss said her brother Jerry pays regular visits to Weymouth to see family and likes to spend time with Erin and Callum telling them stories about their father.

She said: "Jerry likes to talk to them about their dad. Now they are understanding stuff and they want to be on the organ register, me and Jerry have signed up to the organ register.

"We've kept talking about it with the children because it helps."

Joss said the family has received letters from the recipients of Robert's organs, who remain confidential.

She is urging everyone to sign up to the organ donor register.

Joss said: "After the sculpture ceremony I signed up to the organ donor register. You get choices in life. And the choice to save somebody's life is unique."

Doctor Andy Ball, clinical lead for organ donation at the hospital, said the new sculpture at the hospital by artist Andy Kirkby celebrates the 'fantastic gift' that organ donors and their families have made to allow others to have a second chance at life.

He said: "“We are keen to fulfil our patients’ wishes to donate their organs and we do not want to miss the opportunity of being able to transform someone else’s life. One donor could help at least six people live a better life.

“I would like this sculpture to empower everyone to register their choice about organ and tissue donation and to discuss this with their relatives and friends, hopefully changing more lives.”


Anyone who would like to register as a donor can do so online at

The simple online form takes a couple of minutes to fill out.

There are 6,064 people waiting for a transplant in the UK. Some 3,694 people have received a transplant since April 2018. Three people die every day in need of a transplant due to a shortage of organ donors.

There is no minimum age for joining the register. Parents and guardians can register their children and children can register themselves.

Donors can be living as well - every year more than 1,000 people donate a kidney or part of their liver while they are alive.

You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register at or call 0300 123 23 23.