A recent study has shown that three people die every day waiting for an organ transplant.
As part of National Transplant Week, reporter ROB SMYTH takes a second look at the national shortage by talking to staff at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital about the issue as well as speaking to people whose lives have been directly impacted by organ donation.
WORTHWHILE” was the one word used by Jill Kelsall as she discussed her role as a specialist nurse for organ donation at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
She was speaking to the Mail as part of National Transplant Week in an effort to recruit new donors.
Currently 18 million people are registered donors in the UK and while this number may seem impressive, it pales into insignificance when statistics show that three people die every single day waiting for an organ transplant.
As you read this more than 7,500 people of all ages across the UK are waiting for an organ transplant.
This is why Jill and a host of others are backing the ‘Pass It On’ campaign to get more people signed up to the organ donation register and to take away some of the fear and worry from families about loved ones donating organs.
The campaign theme for this year focuses not just on signing up to the register but also the importance of passing on donation plans to family and friends so they are aware.
Nurse Kelsall, who joined the team in January, said: “I have been a qualified nurse since 1987, having worked in critical care for the last 14 years, nine years as a senior staff nurse.
“Working in the critical care environment and caring for patients with multi trauma, including brain injury, I was involved with the care of patients who were referred for organ donation.
“This was my introduction to organ donation and I always considered donation a worthwhile process to be involved in.
“I could see it often gave comfort to bereaved relatives and gave the hope of life to unseen people who may well have died without an organ transplant.
“I also focus on tissue donation as this is an area I feel is often forgotten, both in critical care and other clinical areas.
Unlike organ donation, the referral process for tissue donation can be nurseled.
“My aim at Burton Hospitals is to establish link nurses in critical care and other key clinical areas and deliver teaching sessions to promote awareness and increase the referral rate for tissue donation.
“At present, I accompany my more experienced colleagues when a patient is referred as a potential donor.
“I consider my role as to be of great significance and is something I feel very passionate about.
“We use the Organ Donor Register to establish whether the patient had expressed a wish in his/her lifetime to be an organ donor and this is important as often the patient’s family do not know their wishes regarding organ donation.
“This is really the message for this year’s National Transplant Week - ‘You know.
We know. Do they know?” In response to a Department of Health drive to make organ donation something which is part of the everyday life of a hospital, the trust set up a working group, bringing together people from across the hospital to raise awareness within the organisation and the community of the urgent need for a better approach to organ donation as a whole.
The group is chaired by non-executive director William Saunders.
He said: “The gift of organ donation is an act of selfless kindness at a desperate time for an individual or a family, but one which no-one will ever forget.
“We want more people to consider what they want to happen after death.
“It’s a sensitive issue but hugely important in so many ways. Most people are aware that hundreds of lives are saved every year by donated organs, such as hearts and kidneys.
“What is less known is that donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for other people and can also save lives.
“It’s something we should all think about.” These words will have no doubt echoed in the ears of John and Madeleine Holmes.
Their daughter Philippa was 24 and had a first class honours degree from Cambridge.
She gained a distinction in her MSc at Royal Holloway and was about to undertake a PhD.
She was physically fit and had recently been walking in Nepal and New Zealand.
Possibly due to an undiagnosed heart condition, she collapsed at home.
She died at the Royal Derby Hospital and with the care and support of staff, the family gave their consent for donation.
The family, who live in South Derbyshire, had previously discussed the issue and Philippa had already signed the donation register.
In this way Philippa and her family were able to help six very sick people.
John and Madeleine have now joined Burton Hospitals’ organ donation group and are keen to promote the cause of organ donation.
They are busy campaigners on behalf of organ donation and talking about the experience of being a donor family, whether to health professionals, or families and individuals.
“Every time we take part in events, it is a tribute to our daughter,” said Mr Holmes.
“We have tried to make something positive out of our loss and we would urge everyone to think about organ and tissue donation and what it could mean to their own family members and also to other families.”
This story shows that some good can come from tragic circumstances and while Mr and Mrs Holmes may never get over the loss of their daughter, I am sure a small crumb of comfort can be found in the fact that she has helped others following her passing.
Philippa helped six people by donating vital organs and her story reinforces just how important it is for people to become donors.
Dr Ian Poxon, the trust’s lead for organ donation, added: “It’s probably commonly known that there is a lack of organs available for transplant for those people suffering from chronic organ failure.
“For example, there are more than 6,500 people in the country waiting for a kidney transplant and most of them will have to endure some form of dialysis.
This list currently includes about 90 children.
“Last year, only around 2,200 kidneys were transplanted into recipients. You can see how far short we fall in helping these people.
“There are of course many others who need other organs liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas for example. Many die while awaiting an organ — around three people a day, that’s 1,000 a year.
Yet at present, only about a third of people in this country are registered on the organ donor register.”
It has never been easier to sign up to be an organ donor. It takes less than a minute and can be done by visiting www.transplantweek.co.uk, calling 0300 123 23 23 or texting 84880.
So, stop what you are doing now — go online or pick up a phone and make a short phone call that could save someone’s life.