Last week I wrote a very interesting (even if I do say so myself) feature on organ donation as part of National Transplant Week. The piece was made up of an interview with a clinical commissioning lead, an interview with a nurse at the local hospital who had been on the receiving end of a kidney transplant that had saved her life, and an interview with the son of a woman who donated her organs at death and in turn saved the life of a five-year-old girl. All equally amazing stories and full of interesting information about the importance of signing up to the register and making sure your family are aware of your decision to prevent any last minute changes by devastated family members. I didn’t really know a huge amount about organ donation before writing this piece and I was glad to do it because it gave me a great opportunity to learn all about it while cementing my previous decision to sign up to the register.
So many people are not signed up to the register, and I can’t help but feel it is something that we ought to be opting out of rather than having to go to the trouble or signing up. Yes we are completely entitled to make our own decision on the subject, but so many choose not to bother making a decision on it, or just don’t bother to tell their families which can cause problems when the time comes, if some families do not agree with the individual’s decision, or choose to overrule it. I understand there might be personal reasons – perhaps religious or spiritual – that might affect a person’s choice to join the register, but I think it is a terrible shame when others don’t bother to sign up. It is so easy and quick, and it really does save or change lives.Luckily no-one in my immediate family has needed a transplant to save their life and I hope that they never will. But my Grandad has always suffered with sight problems meaning he is unable to drive and has struggled at times with strong lenses in his glasses. He had a transplant of a tiny part of the eye – I am unsure of which part exactly, but it was possibly the corneas – and it really made a huge difference to his life. His sight in still impaired to a certain extent, but the operation may well have stopped him from going blind and that made the biggest difference to all of our lives. He is able to live independently even though my Nan is long gone, he can really enjoy his gardening and reading – pastimes that would be a lot more difficult without his sight. Most importantly, he has been able to watch his grandchildren growing up and to witness for himself all those amazing family moments that otherwise he would have experienced only through what he heard. It really was a life-changing operation.
Ironically, this part of the body is one that I seem to hear the most about people not wanting to donate. I guess it is a squeamish thing to think of your eyes in another’s body, to think that someone else is seeing through your eyes. It is an odd feeling, and I don’t know why but it seems so much more personal than the idea of your kidneys or heart valves being in another. I was among these people and was signed up to donate everything apart from my eyes to those in need and medical research. After all my research and interviews for the feature, and talking to my Grandad about his experience and how something so small could affect his life so hugely, I instantly signed up for the register again and this time to give all of my organs. It was an easy decision when I thought that if I didn’t sign up to do this, that there could be other peoples’ Grandads out there who desperately want to see their grandchildren grow up but might never get the chance.I’ve always had the view that we shouldn’t mess too much with nature, and this is one of the reasons I prefer to find natural treatments rather than putting chemicals into my body. I find organ donation a tricky subject because it completely goes against what I believe in, but at the same time, I don’t see how I can disagree with anything that saves lives like this. Organ donation is one of those things, unless it is shoved in your face like hopefully I am doing in this post, you don’t really think about it. But quite frankly it is something we need to be thinking about and we need to do it now while we have the chance, otherwise, if something were to happen to us, the decision might be made on our behalf by someone who doesn’t share our views. Make your own choice and register – but don’t forget to have that conversation with your family so they know exactly what you want. It sounds morbid, but it could mean the difference between saving the life of a five-year-old girl with a heart problem and wasting your organs in a body that will only be burnt or buried. My next job is to find where and when I can donate blood – as something I have been meaning to do for years, I think it is time I finally get around to it.
Have you had a life-saving organ transplant? Or perhaps you know someone who has donated organs and helped another? Share your experiences or views below.