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I'm one in 16 million - are you?
Organ Donor Register
Member Name: koshkha
Organ Donor Register
Date: 22/01/09, updated on 18/07/13 (220 review reads)
Advantages: Very easy to do and reassuring to know my wishes are on record
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.
Summary: From faggots to changing lives - not bad for a lunch break