Many of the events that took place to Anna-Louise Bates, half her family’s death due to a negligent driver on a terrible night remains largely unresolved.
As Elizabeth was three years old, she remembers her pushing Elizabeth in her stroller on the way home from Christmas.
Stuart, her husband and Fraser, their seven-year old son were leading the way. The two were in great spirits as they crossed the road singing the song “I’ll Walk 500 Miles” by The Proclaimers.
The bang! Screams. Sirens.
Stuart, aged 43, was killed on the spot. Fraser was admitted to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Cardiff, for ‘catastrophic injury’.
Anna-Louise collapsed to her knees after doctors declared that her husband was brain dead. ‘You’ve just taken away my husband. She wept, ‘You can’t take my son away.’
She recalls their conversation about organ donation. Paperwork. Kissing her son often and again.
Anna-Louise Bates (left), who lost her seven-year-old boy Fraser to a drunk driver as she walked home with her family, was killed by the same driver. Fraser’s heart was transplanted into Roman Pickering (pictured with mother Zoe)
The ‘hardest’ thing of all was Fraser’s departure from Bristol Children’s Hospital. There, his heart beat on continuous life support, until the operation to remove his organs that day.
Anna Louise, six years after the trauma, recalls that the house was like a rotating door for people. However, it was just white noise.
“All that I did was look at the phone to see when the operation was over and my son was in peace.
Fraser continues to beat today. Within hours, Anna Louise was informed that Fraser had successfully transplanted the heart into Roman Pickering (a 10-month-old boy).
Roman, who is now six years old is currently being tested at Great Ormond street Hospital to see if he is suitable for a kidney donation. (Kidney Failure is common after a heart transplant.
Extraordinarily — as it is extremely rare for a donor’s family and the organ’s recipient even to know each other, much less meet — Anna-Louise sits with Roman. He hugs her and it feels as though he has known her for his entire life.
But this bond isn’t something that has been built over many years. They met last week for the first-ever time at London’s Rainforest Cafe.
They were both amazed at the seemingly uncanny connections that bind their boys. How on earth can it be explained that they adore the same song, have the same hobbies — and that Fraser’s mother sees her son’s heart and soul in the eyes of Roman, and he instantly took to her?
Anna-Louise states, “You just have to look at Roman’s eyes. You can only see his heart.”
‘Yes, he’s poorly. He has his tracheostomy. [a tube inserted into his windpipe to help him breathe during the 100 or so operations he has undergone in his short life]It was all there, but it wasn’t what I saw. It was as if I were looking in the eyes of one of my children.
Romans are blue and big. Fraser had brown eyes. But it isn’t about their looks. It’s what I feel now when she searches for words.
“You’ve heard people say that you can see the soul of someone by looking into their eyes. This is how I feel. Fraser is my mirror. I feel such joy and such peace.
Extraordinarily — as it is extremely rare for a donor’s family and the organ’s recipient to know meet — Anna-Louise (pictured with Fraser) met Roman and his mother Zoe last week
Anna-Louise, an ex-lawyer, doesn’t think so. Anna-Louise, a former lawyer, is not daft. She also knows that the heart can be manipulated and that Fraser was already dead when his was taken out.
She says, “It freaks my out.” “But, does not a person’s heart define them?” Aren’t all of us talking about our hearts. What happens to them? What happens when they are repaired? Our hearts have grown.
Roman, his twin brother Hunter were born to Zoe (32), in January 2015. This was when Fraser, a six-year old, was still a football-mad, healthy child.
They lived apart in the United States, and they did not meet. But their mother’s see the many similarities.
Zoe said: “I’m able to see the little things Anna posts on Facebook.
“Logic says it is impossible, but strange things do happen.” Anna posted on Facebook, that Fraser loved Forever Young.
Roman sings that song every time it plays. It’s hard to believe he could have known the lyrics. It would be hard to believe that he could have even heard the words.
It’s almost like déjà vu. “He’s been here before” or “He’s done that before.” We often say this.
“And it’s easy things like Fraser loved football and air guitar. Roman was a long-time fan of air guitar. He would have learned this in hospital. [where he has been for so many months]?
“There is also a football side to him. I haven’t encouraged football in either of my sons.
“When I told Fraser that we would be meeting Fraser’s mom, he was thrilled. He seemed to know that he would have this connection.
Zoe was a former teacher assistant and learned that Roman had a serious defect in her heart at her 20-week scan. However, she refused to terminate her contract. She was devoted to her sons and did everything she could for them.
The team included 56 consultants, doctors and specialists who assisted in the delivery of Roman’s babies via a C-section. This was done on his 25th birthday. Roman, 5lb 7oz and weighing in at 5lb, 7oz had a severely underdeveloped right side.
For him to live, he needed a transplant heart and multiple operations. Craig and Zoe, their husbands, have been divorced since then. Zoe spent 10 months in Newcastle at Freeman Hospital as their baby boy underwent’surgery-after surgery’. They waited to receive a heart.
The season of spring turned into summer, and winter became winter. Christmas was upon us. Anna-Louise, her family and friends were caught up in Christmas cheer in Cardiff.
They had “such fun” at Christmas that fateful Saturday, December 7. Stuart, an IT Manager, would be Father Christmas for his daughter’s little nursery school the next day.
Just after midnight, father-son began crossing the street in Talbot Green.
They were both severely injured by the impact of the vehicle that struck them.
Joshua Staples (22 years old) was sentenced to 16 months in prison after he admitted that he had caused death through careless driving.
Anna-Louise states, “When Fraser asked me about organ donations, I didn’t hesitate.”
“We had just held a dinner conversation with our family about organ donation about two weeks earlier. Both Fraser and Stuart wanted to become donors. Fraser has always been interested in helping people.
“He was transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital. Now that I understand the procedure of organ donation better, I am wondering how he made it through this journey.
“I thought he was a superhuman because it gave me the time to grieve before I donated his organs.
Anna-Louise’s husband Stuart (pictured with Fraser and Elizabeth) also died after being hit by the car. Joshua Staples (22 years old) was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment after he admitted that he had caused death through careless driving.
“He looked calm and serene when he was in life support. He was still breathing so it was hard to complete the paperwork. To say my goodbye, I kept moving back and forth.
“My head didn’t get around to the fact that I wouldn’t see him again. This is still the case. It was the hardest thing that I have ever done.
“When I received the phone call on Monday morning, I was certain that he had finally found peace. His heart beat so long that it could give life and love.
Zoe was contacted by a Freeman Hospital nurse that morning at 7 am to confirm their belief in a possible match.
It was December 7. We’d made it a routine of waiting that we had become so comfortable with, I was able to just accept the fact that there would be no life outside of hospital. It was a moment I will never forget when the nurse called. I got to my son’s bedside, and I didn’t allow him to go until he was finally taken off by the nurses at 3.30pm. [when the heart arrived from Bristol].
“They said that the boy from whom he received the heart was larger than him. They usually only take three times the size of a child’s heart. The heart of this child was 4x bigger than the average, and it was just too good to pass up.
Roman survived for one week, even though it had been nine hours since the operation. Although he suffered from internal bleeding and collapsed lung, Fraser was able to keep his heart beating strong throughout the whole process.
Zoe says, “They kept his chest open for seven consecutive days and put clingfilm across it so that they could observe what was going on in his heart.”
This was done in order to keep the heart open and for medics to be able to reach the child at an instant’s request.
Zoe states that wires were attached to syringes like bootslaces. Every couple of hours, they would turn the syringes so that he’d slowly get his chest back together.
‘I sat in Roman’s company, watching Fraser’s heartbeat. It felt like all emotions were present at the same time. Roman was alive and well, which made me feel overwhelmed. But I also felt so sorry for the person who had lost Roman.
While she watched the beating heart of her baby boy in Newcastle’s hospital, Anna-Louise in Cardiff was setting up Believe in his memory, an organ donation charity.
She says it was born from the “luxury” of talking to her family before she had an accident.
“I had an idea of what my boys desired,” she said. “I was hoping that the charity would allow other people to have this conversation to ensure they know how to respond if something like this happens to them.”
Law regarding organ donation has changed. All adults now consider themselves willing to give their organs if they do not opt out. Parents must consent to children younger than 18 years old.
Anna-Louise says, “It helped my do something positive.”
“The darkest times are always there. On Sunday night, everyone was busy with their family businesses. It was the Sunday nights when everyone was going about their family business. We shut the doors and Elizabeth was left with us.
As Roman was recovering in Newcastle Zoe began to read newspaper reports on Anna-Louise’s tragic loss. Zoe also determined that she would make good out of the situation with her charity.
Only organ recipients can contact their donors through third parties after one year. It is not permitted to provide any personal information.
Zoe says that she began to question Anna’s story after reading about it two-three days after Roman received his heart.
“Fraser always wanted people to help” Anna-Louise answered their question about Fraser’s organ donation. Stuart and her son, all pictured above (all pictured), both wanted to donate.
I said that I was going to hospital. I don’t know the source of it. But just you saying it was not the usual size — can you nod or anything if I said did it come from a seven-year-old boy?’
“One nurse had a little grin on her lips. It was him, I thought. ‘
Due to the many complications that followed Roman’s transplant including multiple infections, liver problems and liver issues, Zoe was unable to sit down and write Anna-Louise in 2017. After trying 15 times, she finally got the right words.
“When I had finished the 15th edition, I sent it back to the transplant nurse. I asked her if she could read it and tell me if all was well. It should be sent if you can. ‘
Anna-Louise received this letter just before Christmas.
She recalls going to organ donor and recipient events through her charity. “One of Fraser’s organs could possibly be here,” she says.
“I just took Elizabeth home for our second anniversary. [of Stuart and Fraser’s deaths]When I received the Zoe letter.
“Boy! That letter helped me through Christmas. It was so comforting to hear her use such a soothing word. My boy’s heart was donated by her. She claimed that I saved their boys. It was her brother. Stu and Fraser had helped two brothers whose lives were lost.
Zoe has the original letter Anna Louise wrote to her back hung on the wall of Zoe’s sitting room.
Anna-Louise said that Fraser (my son) had the greatest heart. He was seven years older than his siblings and had a sensitivity that is unmatched. He was a friend for all ages.
After their first correspondence four years ago Zoe and Anna-Louise continued to correspond after they made contact via Anna-Louise’s charity.
Zoe introduced her son Anna-Louise mainly to bring her some peace and to show her that he is doing well. This is not all a waste of time and there are some good things that have come out of it.
Anna-Louise decided this year that she felt able to deal emotionally with the situation. Roman was ill and Anna-Louise worried that she wouldn’t be able to see him.
They reached an agreement to meet next week.
Zoe recalls, “We were walking along the stairs and I saw her. Roman took off. They were instantly at ease with each other.
Six years have passed since the December terror. After meeting Zach Stubbings through Anna-Louise’s charity, Zoe became a mother to Bear, a three-year old boy, and Pixie, whose partner Ryan Johns is her father.
They are here today with Fraser’s sister, Elizabeth, now nine — strangers until this week and now united by a seven-year-old boy’s wish to help others.
Anna-Louise is filled with joy and Roman on her knees.
“She stated, “Another bit of your heart is growing that you didn’t know was there.”
“Fraser will forever be part of my heart. But I feel that another part has grown to Roman and his loved ones. Fraser is also part of this.