A TOWERING tree sculpture celebrating the gift of life was officially unveiled at Dorset County Hospital.

Families of organ donors and hospital staff gathered to see artist Andy Kirkby’s Precious Scars sculpture installation. They observed a moving minute’s silence for loved ones who have donated their organs.

The structure stands proud in one of the Dorchester hospital’s courtyards. The oak tree sculpture has glistening golden boughs and is viewed as a ‘tree of life’, Andy said.

It was donated to the hospital from the Lulworth Estate, where it died some time ago and is now being ‘re-born’ at the hospital.

Dorset artist Andy said: “It’s important to have a simple message. There’s no point having a bit of art where people have to struggle to work out what it’s about. I’m very pleased it’s finally come together.”

The sculpture had to be moved ‘a millimetre at a time’ from Andy’s studio, transported to the hospital on an eight tonne tractor trailer and re-assembled in the courtyard.

“It really was like a ship in a bottle,” Andy said.

The sculpture was inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken ceramics are lovingly restored with gold covered resin to highlight their cracks - rather than attempting to hide them.

Andy says he sees this as a metaphor for the way in which organ donation is a gift of life that repairs the recipient.

The project has been the initiative of the hospital’s organ donation team, led by consultant anaesthetist Doctor Andy Ball and specialist nurse Helen Rose.

Dr Ball, clinical lead for organ donation at the hospital, said the number of organ donors has gone up but ‘there’s still a lot to do’. He said patients donating organs at DCH have allowed 60 people to receive transplants and ‘revolutionise their lives’.

He hopes the sculpture will help to ‘prompt conversations’ about organ donation.

“Organ donation is a difficult subject,” he said.

“What we really want is for people to discuss organ donation with their family and friends.

“I want to make sure that everyone goes home and has a discussion and registers their details on the website. It’s so much easier for everyone involved if you do happen to be in that position where you know what everyone wants.”

Hospital chief executive Patricia Miller said the sculpture is part of the hospital’s commitment to organ donation.

“I think the gift of life is one of the most important gifts you can give to each other,” she said.

Find out more about organ donation and register your details at organdonation.nhs.uk