Organ donation is one of those things people so rarely think about. Mainly because it often involves something very emotional and sad – post-death arrangements – which most people would rather avoid thinking about. But, if you or someone you know have received a donated organ (like I did), you’ll know there’s a hugely positive story to take from it all.
When I was just two years old, I was diagnosed with childhood liver disease. I was still pre-malignant, but essentially a ticking-time bomb. To look at me, you wouldn’t know it. I didn’t have many symptoms; I wasn’t jaundiced and I had bundles of energy. The prognosis? I needed a liver transplant to live beyond the age of four. Of course, being so young, I couldn’t understand this at the time. But it’s not something any parents want to hear, is it? And I imagine mine were horrified when they were told this news by the doctors at King’s College Hospital.
Thankfully, after an eight-month wait and going back and forth between hospital and home, I was lucky enough to receive a new, healthy liver. It came from a teenager who’s still very special to me. His name was Ben. And I owe all the rest of my life to him and his family who, in their darkest days, respected his wishes to donate.
This brings me to the point I really want to make this Organ Donation Week 2023: If you decide you want to donate your organs after you die (because let’s face it, you won’t need them anymore), please make your wishes known to friends and family, and register your decision to become an organ donor.
In England and Wales, we now have an opt-out scheme in place. But sadly, your decision can still be overridden by those close to you if they’re unaware of your wishes. Of course, when you’re grieving, it’s a horrifically sad time to make any rational decisions like that about a loved one. So, you can see how lots of people might say no when approached by a medical professional. That’s why it’s so important you make your wishes known.
There are currently around 7,200 people waiting for a transplant in the UK. It’s a staggering amount. And lots of these patients are children, who, through no fault of their own, have been born with a disease which threatens their life. So, the more people who register their decision to become an organ donor, the more lives we (collectively) can save. Simply put, it’s giving someone a second chance at life – to live many more years than they might have. To build memories, enjoy extra time with loved ones and do things they didn’t think possible. To me, that’s an amazing gift to give someone. Having a transplant as a small child has meant I’ve been able to live another 31 years – something I’m always grateful for.
I’m now the ripe old age of 34. I’ve had a lot of great experiences in my life, and I have a superb network of friends, family and some furry companions. Sure, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Physically, I’ve had a few complications here and there. Like the time my stitches got tangled up in my stomach and they had to open me up again like a weird version of the game ‘Operation’. And growing up, I found it quite a difficult thing to process. But I’m still alive and well. My condition has never stopped me from pursuing a career in writing, taking part in a few 10ks, touring Europe, going to music festivals, watching the whole of the US Office with my husband… and so on. It’s taught me to never take life for granted and enjoy it as much as possible.
So, there you have it. All of that wouldn’t be possible without organ donation. And as much as I dislike talking about myself, I’ve always felt it’s important to share my story to promote the cause and raise awareness. Plus, it comes in handy when people ask you to say, “something interesting about yourself”.
This year’s aim for Organ Donation Week is to get 25,000 more people to register to become organ donors, helping to save and improve the lives of thousands of people in need of a transplant. Our UNLIMITED B2B division are marking the occasion on Thursday 21st with an open forum for discussion – along with some snacks and games, of course. If you can, consider taking some time out of your day to make a decision about your wishes and talk to your loved ones.
Think about this: Your organs have the potential to save up to nine lives. Will you register your decision and let loved ones know your wishes? I hope so. Thanks for reading.