Organ Donation Week: 'To give the chance of life to someone is the most precious gift'
The incredible generosity of organ donors has helped to change lives everywhere.
This week marks national Organ Donation Week, which aims to raise awareness of the register, and highlights the importance of ensuring that loved ones know your wishes following your death.
The lives of more than 20 people in Shropshire were saved by organ donors last year – but nearly 40 more across the county are still waiting for that life-saving call.
Across the UK the number of those waiting exceeded 6,000 in 2018/19.
Shropshire youngster Oliver Harrison is now 11, but in early 2013 his family were told he only had six month to live, and it is thanks to a generous organ donor that he is still alive.
He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a birth-defect affecting the blood flow through the heart – and by the age of two he had undergone four open-heart surgeries before being told he would need a heart transplant.
Oliver and his family, from Oswestry, were given a lifeline when he had a successful heart transplant in August 2013.
His mum Emma Humphreys is a passionate supporter of the Organ Donation Register.
"In August 2013 one amazing brave family gave Oliver the gift of life," she said.
"Without Oliver’s heart transplant we would have lost our darling son and our younger son, Harry, would have lost his beautiful sibling.
“We’re eternally grateful each and every day. Oliver would not be here today without the heart transplant and it has turned his life around.
“We think about our donor family every day. It’s so incredibly generous of them to make such a big decision and give Oliver the chance of life.
“I’m very passionate about raising awareness of the matter. I’d never really given it much thought until it affected me and my family.
“I believe now that if you’re willing to accept an organ donation, then you should be willing to give.
“To give the chance of life to someone is the most precious gift.”
If more people agreed to donate more lives would be saved, so as of next year the law around organ donation is changing in England.
From next spring, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die, unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.
In the lead up to the change in law, The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), is joining NHS Blood and Transplant to urge families to talk about their organ donation decision, with the campaign message ‘Pass it on’.
In 2018/19 alone, the trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, facilitated five organ retrievals that resulted in 15 patients receiving lifesaving or life changing transplants.
Fiona Deakin, organ donation specialist nurse at SaTH, says more people in the region need to talk about organ donation to increase the number of life-saving transplants.
“While most people agree that it is important to talk to their family about organ donation, it is less likely that they will have actually had this important conversation," she said.
“Sadly, many opportunities are lost every year because families don’t know if their loved one wanted to be a donor or not. Please don’t wait. Speak to your family about organ donation today.”
At PRH, a memorial window pays tribute to the thousands of organ donors across the county.
It features a Forget Me Not design to show that donors will never be forgotten.
The memorial was designed by art students Diane Silverton and Emma Mounsey after SaTH launched a competition in conjunction with the art department at The University of Wolverhampton.
Dr Ashley Miller, clinical lead for organ donation at SaTH, said: “The window honours the extraordinary gift made by past SaTH donors and provides the focal point of a quiet and peaceful area in the hospital.
“It is an area where donor families can come to remember their loved ones and which can also be used by the relatives of other patients.”
Lift doors at both PRH and RSH are also covered with promotional messages urging people to sign up to be an organ donor.
Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, says it has been grateful for the support offered by the trust.
He said: “Even after the law around organ donation changes next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead. So it remains so important to talk to your families about your views.
“Register your organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your family the choice you have made. If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation with nurses or medical teams much easier if they already know what their relative wanted.”
Earlier this year organ donors in Shropshire were posthumously honoured at a moving award ceremony.
They received the Order of St John Award for Organ Donation, run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant, which was given to their families and loved ones on their behalf.
Pol Bradley, 59, from Telford, was honoured and the award was accepted by her husband David Bradley.
He said: “Receiving the award on Pol’s behalf was wonderful. I am and always will be so proud of my Pol.
“Myself and Pol were on the organ donor register for many years and believe it to be a wonderful unselfish act to be able to give someone the gift of life.”
Robert Morris Jones accepted an award on behalf of his son Christopher David Jones, from Much Wenlock, who died one week before his 50th birthday.
Mr Jones said: “Receiving the award on behalf of my son Christopher was an honour. The ceremony to recognise Christopher and other donors was the most uplifting event.
“I attended with another son Jeremy and it was wonderful to see so many other families who supported their relative’s decision to donate their organs.
“Christopher was able to help three people by donating his liver and kidneys and it is a great source of comfort to me to know that Christopher is living on and has been able to give life to other people.
“I had no hesitation in agreeing to donate his organs, Christopher had only spoken in general about organ donation, but I felt that he would have wanted to give life to others.
“He was taken care of so well, there was no need for me to worry, his organs were taken in a sympathetic and beautiful way."
Visit organdonation.nhs.uk for more information.