Monday 4 September 2017 is National Organ Donation Week. And the Welsh Government is emphasising the importance of talking to family and friends about organ donation in an effort to increase the number of people who register their decision either on the organ donor register or just by making sure family are aware of their wishes.
In 2016-17, data published by NHS Blood and Transplant, showed there were 21 cases where families either overrode their relatives’ decisions to donate organs, or didn’t support the deemed consent. With an average of 3.3 organs retrieved per donor in the UK in 2016-17, this could have resulted in as many as 69 additional transplants.
For Katie Lawless (35), from Cardiff, suffering from kidney problems has been part of her life since she was a baby. Katie’s health further declined after the birth of her son and left her needing a kidney transplant at the age of 34. She says:
“I’d always experienced a degree of ill health but around two years ago I noticed a steep decline. There were lots of infections, I was very tired all the time, felt very unwell and didn’t want to socialise with friends or do anything. It just took my life from me. I was briefly added to the kidney transplant waiting list but then my parents were tested as potential living donors and luckily my mum was a match.
“Since my recent transplant, my kidney function has increased and my energy levels are much higher. I’m taking things day by day but making the most of life and trying to give something back to the people who’ve helped me. This year I’ll even be running the Cardiff 10K to raise money for Kidney Wales after being inspired by the nurses and surgeons who have supported me.”
“Some people aren’t sure whether to opt in to the organ donation register, but if they needed an organ they would take one without hesitation. So why not sign up and offer one of yours to someone who needs it? It could change somebody’s life.”
Katie’s mother Jill Atkins adds:
“My recovery from the transplant operation was quite swift and there hasn’t been any negative impact on my health. I felt a great sense of relief being able to help Katie. It makes me so glad that I could do it when I see the difference in her life now she’s much better. It’s amazing to give someone the gift of life at very little cost, and a very humbling experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. In fact, I wish I had more kidneys to give to people who are seriously ill and desperately need them.”
On 1 December 2015, Wales was the first country in the UK to move to a soft opt-out, system of consent to organ donation. This means that unless a person has not registered a decision to become an organ donor (opted in) or a decision not to become an organ donor (opted out), they will be considered as having no objection to being an organ donor – this is known as deemed consent.
As a result of the change, an increase in donations is expected over a period of time. Over the last year, there has been a decrease of 18.5% in patients who died whilst on the waiting list for their transplant.
Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said: “While there are people dying waiting for their transplant we must work harder to increase the consent rate to have a significant impact on reducing transplant waiting lists.
“I want to encourage everyone across Wales to talk to their loved ones about their organ donation decision. While we know awareness and understanding is increasing, it’s really important the Welsh public share their decision with their family. “Simply having a chat about your decision with family and friends ensures they can honour your wishes, when you die”
One conversation can help benefit the people of Wales and the UK by reducing the number of people dying whilst waiting for a suitable organ to become available, and transforming the lives of others.
You can register a decision at any time by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting www.organdonationwales.org or by telling your family (and friends).