Have you had a conversation about organ donation with your loved ones?

Posted: September 7, 2020

Every day in the UK, somebody will die whilst waiting for an organ transplant.

Every day in the United Kingdom, somebody will die whilst waiting for an organ transplant.

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant and of these, 1,000 - three a day - will die waiting as there are not enough organs available.

Last year at Great Western Hospital, seven people were able to save the lives of ten others through the gift of organ donation.

Monday 7 September is the start of Organ Donation Week 2020. To raise awareness, the Trust is supporting the #WordsSaveLives campaign, which asks people to start a conversation with their loved ones about their feelings and decisions on organ donation.

Natalie Jones, a nurse who previously worked in the Intensive Care Unit at Great Western Hospital, said "I received a transplant after being diagnosed with a rare genetic disease.

"When placed on the transplant waiting list, I was given six months to live. I spent almost three months waiting for 'the' call. My life was on hold spending most of the wait in hospital. Without the donor and their family unselfishly consenting to donate, I would not be here today. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my young donor.

"I celebrate my transplant anniversary every year and it will be 17 years of life that I have gained by the amazing gift I have received.

"Since the transplant I have travelled, gone to university and qualified as a nurse. The dedication and care I received is what inspired me to do my training and become a nurse, which I have been for 11 years now.

"The gift my donor has given me is beyond words and I shall forever be thankful."

To allow more people to save more lives, the law around organ donation in England changed to an 'Opt Out' system in May this year. 

This means that all adults in England are now assumed organ donors when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in an 'excluded group'.

These groups include:           

  • Anyone under the age of 18
  • Anyone not living in England voluntarily or who has lived in England for less than 12 months
  • Anyone considered not to have capacity to understand the law.

The new system also includes an option when you register as an organ donor, for you to choose for an NHS professional to speak to your family, and anyone else appropriate, about how organ donation can go ahead in line with your faith or belief system.

You can still choose whether or not you want to be an organ donor when you die by registering your decision and telling your family.

Nicole Marshall, a Receptionist for the Trust, said "My daughter and I have both registered to donate our tissue and organs and we have talked about it at length after I was tested last year to be a live kidney donor.

"After spending nearly 12 years offering beauty treatments to renal patients on dialysis here at the hospital through the charity Swindon Kidney Patients Association, I have met and become friends with many patients waiting for kidney transplants. I chose to get tested after a close friend became very poorly. Although I went to the team in Oxford to get tested, I first spoke to the team here at Great Western Hospital to get their advice. Everyone I spoke to was fantastic and extremely supportive.

"Being a live donor is a decision that requires lots of thought and through that process and conversations with my family, I discovered that my mum was very uncomfortable with the idea. Now I have registered my decision and talked to my family, I know they won't have to make any tough decisions on my behalf, should that situation arise. I am a huge advocate for organ donation. It can completely change people's lives."

Joanne Davies, Specialist Nurse for the Organ Donation Service Team, said "If you do decide to register as an organ donor, it is really important that you share your decision with those closest to you.

"Losing a family member is an extremely emotional event. By sharing your decision, your loved ones can be certain they are honouring your wishes if they should need to do so. We understand the sensitivity of this kind of situation and we offer support to bereaved families to help them make informed choices about organ donation.

"Here at Great Western Hospital we are only involved in the organ retrieval process. This involves a specialist NHS team who ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation, the same care as any other operation to save a life.

"The operation site is carefully dressed after surgery and any end of life care wishes in relation to the washing and dressing of the body are respected."

Although many things have changed recently to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, the hospital is still taking organ donations. The organ donation team have implemented more stringent testing and safety precautions to protect patients but to continue saving lives.

It only takes two minutes register your decision and share it with your family, but you could give someone another chance at life.

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