I remember signing up to be an Organ Donor. They used to have those little credit-card sized cards you filled in, and kept in your purse. I went through each organ and ticked or denied permission depending on how ‘weird’ it felt. Later I realised I was being silly – I would be dead, and there was nothing weird about saving or prolonging a life, or giving someone sight. Even if it felt odd ticking the box to say they could have my corneas.
9 out of 10 people in the UK support organ donation, yet only 32% are on the Organ Donor Register. Every day three more people die as they wait on the register to be matched, and only 1% of people that have died in hospital are then able to go on to donate organs. These are horrifying statistics that show why every person who signs up to the register is needed.
A new campaign has just been launched in conjunction with Heart Transplant UK called ‘Give Your Heart This Valentine’s Day‘. The website allows users to send their loved ones their ‘heart’ on a Valentine’s E-card, which will also register them on the donor list.
Stacie Pridden is 24 and has Pulmonary Hypertension. When diagnosed she was given three years to live, but she’s now been waiting two years and nine months for both a heart and lung transplant. Stacie has been matched three times, but each time the operation has been cancelled at the last minute due to problems with the organs discovered at the last minute. I can’t image how that must feel.
For a successful organ donation to take place, the person has to die in a hospital without damage to their organs, and they have to match up with someone waiting for a transplant. Finally, the family of the deceased has to give permission even if that person is on the donation register.
If you’re already on the register, it’s essential to tell your family of your decision to donate your organs. When you lose someone it’s a very shocking and traumatic time, and so a medical professional asking about organ donation may get an automatic no – but if the family are fully aware that you want to donate that may be at the forefront of their minds when asked that question. Families are generally more likely to agree if someone has actually registered their wishes (95% of families agree when they know the decision, compared to 45% who agree when they aren’t sure what the person wanted).
On the whole families in the UK are more likely to say no whether they’re on the register or not than any other country in Europe, so something seems to be going wrong here. It may help if it was openly discussed with families, and they hear what your wishes are directly from yourself – rather than a medical professional. Sending them a card from Give Your Heart will make the answer clear to them.
There is also a huge shortage of people who are Black or Asian on the register, yet these ethnic groups are actually more likely to need certain organ transplants due to a high susceptibility of having conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. If anyone is unsure if their religion allows them to donate, the NHS has more information here. There are very few religions that prohibit it. Registering to be a donor is really easy, you no longer have to fill in forms or cards and carry them with you, but simply pop your details onto the transplant register online. If you’ve moved house, or changed your surname recently, don’t forget to amend your details here.
One thousand people die each year waiting for a transplant. Let’s get #GiveYourHeart trending and make sure you give your heart this Valentine’s Day.