Organ Donation Week 2019

Posted: September 2, 2019

Have you signed the organ donor register?

There are around 300,000 people living in Swindon, and 82,986 of these are registered organ donors.

Compare that to the 6,000 people nationally who are currently on the waiting list for an organ, 21 of whom live in the local area, and this town has the potential to save and improve many lives through organ donation.

From spring 2020, the law in England will change, and everybody will be automatically listed as a registered organ donor, unless they have officially opted out.

That is why, this Organ Donation Week (2-8 September), NHS Blood and Transplant is asking for people to come together to 'Pass it on' - passing on organs in death, passing on your wishes to family, and passing on the news that the law is changing.

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has a dedicated team who are committed to helping potential donors and their families make a decision about organ donation as they approach end of life.

Sometimes, a patient might be in an accident, or have an unexpected illness, which leaves them on a ventilation machine. This can be an incredibly difficult time for families, but the knowledge that their loved one has the potential to save the lives of many others can come as a comfort.

Dee Rawlings is a specialist nurse in organ donation at Great Western Hospital.

"My job involves having those conversations with families about the potential to donate the organs of their loved one," she explained.

"Understandably, this time is always very tough for families, and the decision about whether to donate organs can be hard. It is so important that families have these conversations with their loved ones in advance, so that everyone in a family is aware of each other's wishes.

"Once a family decides to donate organs, the process is very carefully planned and methodical. We organise with the surgeons to ensure that the patient's organs are retrieved efficiently, all the while maintaining respect and dignity to the individual and their family.

"The organs are then placed into ice and are transported via motorbike, car or even airplane, to another hospital where a recipient patient will be waiting.

"Last year, four deceased patients at Great Western Hospital donated their organs, which saved the lives, across the country, of 11 others.

"There is lots of option to donate, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, bone and tissue. I would appeal to everybody to consider becoming an organ donor- it really does save lives."

Organ donations do not just come from the deceased. A living donor may decide to donate an organ, blood or bone marrow.

Lesley Biles is the Legal Services Manager at Great Western Hospital. Following a routine blood test, it was discovered that she had chronic kidney failure. Before having to undergo dialysis, Lesley received the news that a donor had been matched to her.

Her husband, Adi Biles, a biomedical support worker at the hospital, had wanted to donate a kidney to Lesley but the couple were not a direct match.

Instead, they took part in a paired exchange scheme which allowed Adi to indirectly donate his kidney to Lesley, by donating instead to another through a chain process.

Lesley received a kidney from a stranger. Somebody who does not know anyone with kidney disease, but still wishes to donate, can provide a kidney for someone on the national transplant list or who is in the Paired Exchange Scheme. These people are known as non-directed altruistic donors.

There have been around 600 of these across the UK in the last 10 years.

"I am eternally grateful to the person who donated their kidney to me," said Lesley. "My kidneys were gradually declining, and were at the stage where dialysis was necessary.

"I had a transplant in June this year and kept both my own kidneys. The donated kidney was placed in my lower abdomen, where it has taken some off of the strain from my old kidneys.  I feel so much healthier and fitter; it has saved and changed my life.

"I cannot thank my donor enough. It's down to the selfless act of my donor and my husband, and the dedication and outstanding care of the specialised medical team, that I was fortunate to receive a kidney and avoid dialysis.

"Donating a kidney is the most generous gift anybody can ever give, especially when they don't know the individual themselves. It is such an admirable and inspirational thing to do."

Adi's kidney was donated to a child. "It is amazing to know that I have saved a child's life, as well as indirectly helping my wife too," he explained.

"When Lesley got ill, I just wanted the best for her health and that meant I wished to give her one of my kidneys. I didn't mind that Lesley wasn't able to receive my kidney directly, as I know I have helped two people.

"One worry for me before the operation was how much my life would change afterwards. The clinical team supported me so much though, and reassured me that my life would completely return to normal.

"There were some tests I needed to have before I could donate my kidney, to make sure I was healthy and to ensure I would be able to cope with having only one kidney in the future. This process was quick and really well organised.

"Since the surgery, there is nothing in my life that has changed, and I am still able to work, drive, exercise and have a drink.

"When somebody you love is unwell, it puts life into perspective and the material things no longer mattered for us. I am so proud to be a living organ donor and would encourage anybody who is considering it to sign up."

To register as an organ donor, please visit

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