Sunday, 6 July 2014

National Transplant Week

Yes it's that time of the year again. The time when people like me start banging on about people joining the organ donor register.

It may surprise a lot of readers to find that I am an organ donor myself. My heart and lungs may be of no use but there are lots of other bits that could go on to save someone else's life. You see those of us, on the transplant list, would actually never dream of taking an organ without wanting to pass something on to someone else in the event of our own deaths. Why should you accept if you are not willing to give? It doesn't make any sense does it?

However there are millions out there who have not signed up yet. Some have religious or ethical reasons which of course must be respected. The rest of you really have no excuse other than, may be, being ill informed about what it means to be an organ donor. So straight away lets explode a few myths about it.

Myth number 1: If you are an organ donor doctors will not try hard enough to save your life. This is utter nonsense. First off a doctor could be struck off for not doing everything in his power to save someone. Secondly it is far more cost effective to save you than to let you die so someone else can have your organs. In this budget driven world that actually is probably the number one reason which explodes this particular myth. I know this myth is not true because the organs I should have got were damaged during CPR on the donor.

Myth number 2: I'm too old to donate. No one is 'too old' to donate organs as it all depends on the viability and quality of the organ being donated rather than it's age.

Myth number 3: I'm on medication so cannot donate. This depends entirely on what sort of medication it is. As a general rule of thumb, if you can still give blood (if you do) then you can still donate. Again you might be limited in which organs you can donate but 'some' is better than 'none'. Check with you doctor.

Myth number 4: I don't live near a transplant center. This is one I've been told to my face, clearly people who think you have to live next to a transplant center have never heard of planes, helicopters or fast cars.

Myth number 5: I've signed the register and carry are card but I don't think it is necessary to tell my family, it will only upset them. This is probably the most damaging myth of all. Because of our crazy laws, you can sign as many registers as you want but unless you tell your family what you want it could all be for nothing. Doctors still need to ask relatives permission to take organs and they have to do so while the shock and grief of losing a loved one is still very raw. If your relatives do not know your wishes then it puts a terrible burden on them at the worst possible time. If you discuss donation with your relatives, when things are calm and happy and everyone can really think coolly about things, then it will make it so much easier for your loved ones should the time come. They will know that this is what you want and therefore are more likely to give permission.

Presently there are over 7000 people in the UK waiting for organs and the number is rising all the time. Three people die every day waiting. More than a third of all organ donors have their wishes overturned by their relatives because the first time the relatives hear about their loved ones wishes is when the doctor tells them. Naturally enough they don't or can't believe what the doctor says and refuse permission. If you truly, truly want your wishes to be carried out please talk to your loved ones, do it now, do it today. Yes is is an uncomfortable subject but it is the only way forward.

Look out for articles in magazines, newspapers and on TV and radio all this coming week. A lot of them will feature my friend Kath Graham, who was fortunate enough to have a heart and double lung transplant in Papworth last November. Now Kath spends her time raising awareness so people still waiting will also have a change of getting this special gift.

Thank you for reading this blog, and thank you for considering donation. Next blog Friday.