At lunchtime yesterday, I sat with some colleagues and our conversation took its usual rather circuitous route. Improbable as it might sound, it all began with a discussion of faggots last Friday; 'What', asked one, 'was the difference between a faggot and a meatball?' The faggot-eating colleague had checked the packaging on her favourites and told us, as expected, that a faggot contained offal. Next step, we were on to discussing offal, and a few minutes later, we had progressed to the topic of organ donation and transplantation.
Two of the four of us have personal experience of having to take the decision to donate when relatives have died so possibly we weren't a typical sample group. However the shocking thing was that not one of us, despite all having quite strongly held beliefs, had signed up with the organ transplant register. We all said that they intended to but had just never got round to it.
Coming back to my desk, I googled 'organ donor register', got straight to the website - http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ - and within a couple of minutes, I'd done it. Years of 'meaning to', years of 'putting it on a to-do list', years of good intentions and all it needed was just a minute or two to sort it out. Later in the day I received an email confirming the details that had been put on the register and saying I'd shortly receive a donor card and more information.
It really was that easy. I'm not looking for a pat on the back or a medal because it wasn't hard; without pain, without trauma, without any more effort than pushing a few keys on my keyboard, I did something that may one day save lives. How often can we say that? If you also have meant to do it before now and have just been overcome by the apathy and inertia of day to day life, please, go and do it now.
I don't intend to touch on the pros and cons of donation or to try to change anyone's opinion. The decision is a very personal one and not something I think anyone should feel pressured to do. If you don't want to do it, that's fine and nobody else has any right to question that. Despite being pro-donation, I don't agree with the idea of 'presumed consent' and I believe donation should be a gift that's willingly given and not an obligation. All I will say is that when my mother-in-law died at just 67 after a hospital operation, neither my husband nor I had second thoughts about asking the hospital to take anything that they could use. The personal comfort we derived from knowing that others would benefit from her tragic death was - at the time and ever since - a really big comfort. You can say that's selfish if you like, but to us, it felt right and ultimately, the grieving family are the ones who have to take the hard decisions.
The media sometimes give you the impression that hospital staff are waiting in the wings to swoop on the families as they sit crying by the life support machine but nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody asked us - we asked them. The hospital staff find it incredibly difficult to raise the topic of organ donation but the organ donor register means they don't have to guess about the intentions of the deceased and they can approach the family with less embarassment if they already know that someone signed the register.
With only three transplant coordinators covering the entire south of England, we were left to wait in the relatives' room for an hour or two whilst they tracked down the first available coordinator. Everything was handled with the utmost sensitivity and consideration. But one concern stays with me to this day; we took the decision based on what WE thought was right, but we had never had the conversation with Ma that might have meant we knew that she agreed. I don't ever want to have to do that again.
So my purpose in writing this is to say just a few key things:
1.If you have thought about the issue and you don't want to donate, that's fine. It's your body and your choice.
2. If you know you want to donate but you've been putting it off - it will take next to no time to do it. Sign up on the register and it's done and dusted. 16 million Brits already did it so you won't be lonely!
3. Nobody can force your next of kin to go along with your choice but if you tell them what you've done and why you made your decision, there's a much better chance that they'll abide by your choice, whether it's to donate or to not donate. So don't just sign up and then tell nobody.
4. Please talk to your family and ask them what they want to happen if they die. Do they want to donate? Do they want to only donate certain 'parts' or are they totally opposed to the concept? Please, if they don't agree with you, don't try to change their minds. The important thing is to know where they stand so you can implement their wishes.
Talking about death and donation is not an easy conversation to have - it's still a taboo topic. I had to tackle it 3 or 4 times with my parents before they'd stop brushing me off and answer my questions. They were very resistant to discussing the topic but I told them that I never wanted to find myself in the position of having to take such a decision and having to guess what the deceased would have wanted. My mother, as I'd expected, said 'Take what they need and get on with it' but my step-father said 'No way! Nobody's having anything'. The shocking thing was that each of them had assumed that the other felt the same way as them but despite being married more than 30 years, they'd never discussed it.
If you want to - sign up. If you don't, then don't. But whichever you decide, please make sure you tell your family and friends what you want and ask them to guide you on how to act if the situation was reversed.
Addendum: Based on one of the comments left, I think it's important to say almost everybody, regardless of age or physical condition CAN make a valuable donation. My mother-in-law was too old to give major organs (although the doctors said she was in great physical shape) but could still give corneas, bone and skin samples. You might have the liver of George Best and smoke 60 a day and consider yourself to be a poor example of the human form, but there will almost certainly be parts of you that others will value.
Being a sufferer of a kidney disease, I dread the day that comes when I'm told that I may need a transplant, trouble is, no-one wants to donate their dead and dying loved ones organs, but yet everyone thinks its a great idea.(some cases don't require someone to be dying ie a kidney or bone marrow transplant) - 90% of the UK think donor cards are a great thing, trouble being, only 10% carry one.
----Organs for Sale----
I have already told my partner that I'll be on a first class trip to India or China for a suitable organ as the waiting lists/times and lack of REAL donors in the UK means most people who need a transplant, can't get one or are too late.
To elaborate on this; I would not go over to some poor third world/developing country and demand an organ from someone desperate for money to feed his/her family, I would put my trust in the hands of the NHS until "ALL" avenues were exhausted.
If I was left with no choice other than to do this, I would be hesitant, but would most definitely consider doing so.
-mum2boys82- comment about the current organ donor card situation, points out how shambolic the current system is, if you are a donor and carry a card, and wish to donate after your death, your partner or family can over-ride this decision, with the death of a loved one, and emotions running high, I can sympathize why people would want to do this.
George Best was fast tracked for a liver transplant only because he was George Best, had that been Jane or Joe public, it would be straight to the back of the queue.
After he received his transplant, he hit the bottle AGAIN....
In an ideal world, everyone who is fit and healthy would carry a donor card, but it isn't an ideal world. To qualify for an organ in the UK, the recipient should cut any bad habits out, drinking/smoking/drug abuse, take all medications they are asked to take and do anything that could, in the mean time, keep them hanging on in there.
----It Could Be You----
Until you or someone you love has been told that a dodgy ticker, too much drinking or bad luck, will have you needing a transplant, does the message really hit home.
Giving blood is the first thing anyone can do to help carry the burden of donating, giving blood only takes 10 minutes, and you get a free tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream for every 5 pints you donate (last time i checked).
If you're reading this thinking I haven't the time, I'm too scared or whatever other reason to avoid carrying a donor card or giving blood, remember one day, you or your partner, or god forbid, both of you may be on a hospital bed needing multiple transfusions or a transplant to stay alive.
I'd love to see organ donor cards made compulsory, some religions are against it, though a Mormon father/mother, for instance whose child was in dire need of a transplant, may quickly change his/her mind for the chance to prolong their child's life.
----The "Gift of Life"----
As ever, subjects like this are always fraught with theological and idealogical arguement, no matter how you cut it, the gift of a donor organ is the best thing anyone can give, it really is the gift of life, and part of that person really does live on inside the recipient.
Go on be a donor card holder, chances are, you won't be here, but part of you will live on.
Death is a very morbid subject to read and talk about. But we should all talk and think about organ donation. We are given this body to live in and we use it until we die. After that we have no need for the body and so what's the harm in giving the bits that you don't need anymore to some one who would really benefit from having it? This website is one of the most important sites that I have come across. By filling out the very simple on line registration form, you can express your wishes to the authority's that you want your organs to be used for transplant when the time comes. It gives you all the necessary information about what happens ad about what organs can be used on the "frequently asked questions" page. On the statistics page, there some very hard hitting with facts such as last year nearly 400 people died while waiting for a transplant. That's 400 families that have a lost a son, daughter, father or mother. I didn't realise until after visiting this site that over 5,500 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant and that the new organ could save or dramatically improve their life and less than 3,000 transplants are carried out each year, which means that some people aren't getting the organs that they desperately need to survive. It is very informative and answers all of the most common asked questions about organ donating. If you're thinking that you already have a donor card so your wishes are know, this is not exactly true. If you are not carrying your donor card at the time of death then your wishes will not be know to the hospitals. By signing up to this web site, you can be assured that you're organs will be used to help someone that's really sick. One concerning issue over donor cards is that the next of kin can over ride your wishes so as well as signing up to this site, you should also let friends and family know of your wishes so they know your intentions
. My placing my name on the register I am committing myself to having my organs donated at the time of my death. It's a decision that I had to think about long and hard and no a decision that you should take lightly if you are unsure. There is the ability of changing your wishes if you change your mind about organ donation. After signing up, if you no longer want to be an organ donor then you can use the same registration form but from the drop down list choose "Remove my details from the NHS organ donor register" There is a page called "About transplants" that contains some really useful information about what organs can be used, success rates and organ allocation. The "about us" page gives you information about the NHS organ donation scheme, the legal information and their policies and freedom of information act. So take the time and read the information on this website. If you feel that you would like to be an organ donor and do good after your death, then fill out the form and express your wishes. If you register as a donor you are saving some ones life or improving their quality of life. I think that my donating my organs some good will come as a result from my death and after all I won't be needing them anymore. So far 11,258,344 people have signed up to the organ donation register.
Conor doesn't like my Organ Donor Card. It upsets him. Every time he sees it he worries and asks in a worried little voice those worried little questions children ask. "How old are you again, Mummy?" "Who will die first, Mummy, you or Daddy?" "They really do wait until you're dead before they cut out your heart, don't they Mummy?" Kieran doesn't really know what an Organ Donor Card is yet, but when he does I don't think he'll like it much either. In times of stress and worry his major concern is that as he's the youngest Michael, Conor and I will all die before him, leaving him all alone. Timescales don't mean much when you're six and five. Timescales though, can mean an awful lot when you're waiting for an organ transplant. Let me ask you some questions taken from the NHS Organ Donor Register website. Did you know that over 5,000 in people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant that will either save or dramatically improve their lives? Did you know that Asian people are three or four times more likely than white people to suffer from diabetes or heart disease and to need a transplant operation? Did you know that black people are three times as likely as white people to need a kidney transplant, yet only 1% of organ donors are black? Did you know that the better the tissue match, the better the chances are for a successful transplant operation (Asian and black people's tissue will match better with fellow Asian and black people's tissue)? Did you know that because of this black people should be over-represented as donors, but in fact they're under-represented? Did you know that for the 5,000 people in the queue, only 3,000 transplant operations are carried out in the UK each year? Pause for thought, eh? The National Organ Donor Register is a centralized database where all potential donors up and do
wn the country can leave a record of their wishes. You can add your name to the list by going to the website or filling out the form on the leaflet. I've left details at the end of this opinion. Sadly, at the moment, it can only be a record of your wishes. Your next of kin can still refuse permission for organ donation after you've died, and they'll still be subjected to the distressing rigmarole of signing consent forms and discussing what will happen at the most awful of times. But still, it's a start. Hop over to the website now and take a look. It won't take you long because it's a clear, fast, simple site but it contains all the information you'll need. Under "The Facts" you'll find easy clear explanations of the organ donation system and of the transplant operation programs, under "Success Stories" you'll really begin to see the good they do as you read about some real transplant patients. If you'd like to know even more about how vital to quality of life and to life itself transplant operations are then take a look under "What Organs Do". "What every black person should know" and "Asian Communities" explain the specific and desperate need for donors from those sections of our community. If you decide that you'd like to be an organ donor then it's vital you let your family and friends know of your wishes. This isn't always an easy subject to broach and under "Family and Friends" you'll find the legal permission reasons for how important it is for you to explain your wishes to those who need to know, there's also the option of sending an email and a link to the site if a conversation is beyond you. Do let those closest to you know what you want though; it may save them a terribly distressing decision one day. But by far the most important part of the site is the online registration form. It's easy peasy to fill out and it
won't take you more than five minutes of your time. Be prepared for several pages though, with just a few details on each. I'd imagine they've designed so that it takes slightly longer than necessary just to make sure that you don't make any silly errors and also give you plenty of time to think about what you're doing. It's a big decision, after all. But it's clear and simple and the pages load quickly. Your details won't be shared with anyone, but they will be there if they are ever needed. Via the same form you can send a link to the site to family and friends or you can remove yourself from the list if your feelings ever change. I hope you register though, and I hope your feelings don't ever change. I think perhaps the NHS Organ Donor Register can be summed up best by a little quote from its website: "If you are prepared to consider accepting a transplant for yourself or your family, it seems only fair to play your part by being willing to be a donor." That's what I think too. Oh you know, as far as I'm concerned any and every suitable part of my body is available for donation. I don't much care what happens to it when I'm not in it any more. Perhaps that little man currently exhibiting in Brick Lane would like to pose it in an acrobatic, athletic pose it most certainly never knew while it lived and breathed. Or if the Ebay auction fails to reach its reserve price then you can put me in an orange crate and float me down the river for all I care. Sorry to the more squeamish of you: of course I'm being flippant. I do care. I care now. I prefer not to think of my own dead body too much. But I know I won't be caring about what happens to it if the day ever comes when organ donation is a possibility. I do care now though. I'd like that list of 5,000 people, people living with disability, or in pain, or in fear that they'll die in that gruesome queue, to
be a thing of the past. I'd like for that heart patient to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting breathless, for that eye patient to be able to read a book or watch a film again, for that kidney patient to be spared the exigencies of life on dialysis. Wouldn't you? I think the NHS Organ Donor Register is a wonderful idea. Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow? Who knows if your Organ Donor card is going to be in your other purse or wallet should the worst thing happen? And if you're little like Conor, or a bit squeamish like me, who wants to look at something that reminds you of your mortality every time you go to get out your credit or debit card? I've signed up to the register online now, I've told my family and my friends what I'd like to happen to my organs and they've promised to do as I wish, so I don't need to carry the card any more. I hope nothing awful ever happens to me but I feel slightly better about my own mortality now I know it won't be a complete waste. I'd like to see the register go one step further. I'd like it to be something that relatives, no matter how sincere in their beliefs and judgements, had no power to alter. I'd like to see my entry, perhaps after advice and rubber-stamping from someone in authority, my GP for example, made certain. I'd like to take away from doctors and nurses and grieving relatives those dreadful conversations: "Have you considered organ donation? Your husband's/wife's/son's/daughter's name was on the National Register." And anyway, I think it's my decision and my decision alone. I've made my decision. Isn't it time you made yours? To register online go to http://www.nhsorgandonor.net For more information or copies of the relevant leaflets call 0845 60 40 400 Or write in for a registration form to The NHS Organ Donor Register PO Box 14 FREEPOST
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