From 2-8 September it is the NHS Organ Donation Week. Here, Sam Thorpe, stakeholder manager at Kier Highways, Regional Delivery Partnership (RDP) talks about her experience with organ donation and why it’s so important to become an organ donor.

“Are you an organ donor? I’m aware this isn’t a ‘normal’ question to ask people, but it is the one which the NHS Organ Donation Team would like us to discuss openly this NHS Organ Donation Week. The annual campaign week aims to increase awareness surrounding organ donation and encourage more people to become organ donors by signing the UK organ donor register. This year it is highlighting the change in UK organ donation legislation coming in spring 2020.

I got my donor card when I was 17, like many, I signed up at the same time as I applied for my provisional driving license and didn’t give it much thought. Would I like to donate my organs in the event of my death the form asked? Why wouldn’t I? I’m going to be burnt when I expire so why not recycle my organs to help others? What could be better than saving a life and leaving an amazing legacy behind. That’s how I felt back then, and I feel like that even more so now.

Since April 2019, 1,409 people in the UK have received a lifesaving organ transplant but demand far exceeds supply and three people will die each day waiting.

When I signed up to become an organ donor at 17 if you would have told me that 20 years later, I would need a double organ transplant to save my life I would have laughed. But that is exactly what happened to me, at 19 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and although I’d been in good health, long-term complications meant that overnight my health took a dramatic turn.

I developed diabetic eye disease and had sight saving surgery, then during my recovery my kidneys started to fail. Within 18 months I was being kept alive by a dialysis machine which did the job of my now failed kidneys and the life I’d took for granted had gone.

One year on I developed heart failure as my body got weaker. My consultant told me I had two to six years left without a transplant. I was devastated. At this stage all I knew was that I didn’t want to die. Looking back I wonder how I coped but with a mix of optimism, stubbornness and some denial I focused on getting my life back and nothing else.

One donor can save up to 9 people’s lives
I received my kidney and pancreas transplant on 1 May 2015. When they wheeled me down to theatre later that day, I’d never felt emotion like it. This was it ‘do or die’. My life was about to change overnight. May 2020 will be my fifth transplant anniversary, I haven’t looked back, I am healthier now than I ever was in my 20s. No diabetes and no dialysis.

My donor was 19 with his whole life in front of him, he had a donor card and in their darkest moments his family consented to organ donation and it saved my life. I am forever grateful for that.

No one knows what lies round the next corner so please consider being a donor.
Anyone can register to donate their organs and tissue when they die, regardless of their age or medical conditions. It takes two minutes to sign up online – the link is below.

UK Organ donation is changing in spring 2020
Next spring the UK government will follow Wales and implement the ‘opt out’ law for organ donation. Meaning that everyone in the UK over the age of 18 will automatically become an organ donor – unless they ‘opt out’. This shift in legislation is aimed at increasing the number of viable organs for transplantation and ultimately saving the lives of those awaiting transplant. Families will still be asked if they consent which is why it is so important to talk openly with those you love about your wishes.”

Organ donation facts: 

• Every day in the UK 3 people will die waiting for an organ transplant.
• There are currently 6339 on the UK transplant list awaiting a lifesaving transplant.
• In Spring 2020 UK law will change and everyone will automatically become an organ donor unless they ‘opt out’.
• You are six times more likely to need a transplant than be a donor

Find out more on the NHS organ donation website: www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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