Young woman's sudden death helped save six other lives

A young woman's unexpected death has given six others a second chance at life.

Gabby Marsh was celebrating her upcoming 20th birthday with a handful of friends when she began feeling unwell. A headache rapidly escalated and she was taken to Auckland Hospital by ambulance. 

Gabby had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and later that night her family was told she was unlikely to survive. The next day, the decision was made to turn off her life support.

The death was a complete shock to Gabby's friends and family, who were still recovering from her father Shayne's death 17 months earlier. 

Gabby was about to turn 20 when she suffered brain trauma due to a hemorrhage (Supplied)
Gabby was about to turn 20 when she suffered brain trauma due to a hemorrhage (Supplied)

Gabby was healthy, fun-loving and adventurous.

"Shayne was sick for 14 months and we all had time to get used to the idea, but with Gabby it was the complete opposite. It's left us all a bit shell-shocked," Gabby's mother Kathryn told NZME.

Doctors told the family they believe Gabby had a malformation in the brain's blood vessels, and there was nothing the family could have done to prevent her death.

Despite the shock of the news and Gabby's rapid deterioration, the family decided to donate her organs.

On Gabby's 20th birthday, March 6, surgeons removed her organs for donation. Her kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and heart valves were all donated, giving six people a new chance at life.

Gabby's friends and family say she was selfless and generous (Supplied)
Gabby's friends and family say she was selfless and generous (Supplied)

Gabby had outlined her wish to donate her organs on her driver's licence. 

Her friends say that "her amazing gift [going on] to offer hope and life to others... epitomises the person Gabby was."

Gabby was in her third year at the University of Auckland, where she was studying a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws. 

In her honour, her friends decided to set up a scholarship in her name. Collecting through Givealittle, donations have reached over $26,000.   

The page describes Gabby as "passionate, fun loving and kind. She smiled easily and often. She was selfless, considerate and generous. She was someone who impacted everyone she met."

One of the friends who helped set up the scholarship said she was overwhelmed by the messages from people about the Givealittle page. 

"I'm so proud of setting up this scholarship and hope this encourages people to talk about organ donating with their loved ones," Toni Anda said.

Notes left on the Givealittle are touching.

One donor wrote that his 14-year-old daughter's life had been changed after she received a kidney transplant. "Thanks to that, she can now live a normal life free of dialysis," he wrote. 

Another wrote that "My stepdad is alive today because a beautiful person donated their kidney. Thank you Gabby and to all those souls who have donated as well."

The scholarship will be offered to a school leaver demonstrating "excellent character and service" who plans to study commerce at the University of Auckland. 

Organ donation

There are currently 550 New Zealanders waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.

Organ Donation New Zealand says some people will die waiting for a donation. Others will suffer while they wait.

Donation of organs is only possible when a person is on a ventilator, usually with a severe brain injury. Very few injuries - less than one percent - happen this way.