Organ donation, where a person decides to give one of their organs to transform someone else’s life, is a precious gift, but of all those registered as donors in the UK, only about 1% are actually able to have their wishes fulfilled because only a few people die in a way where it is possible.
There are 7,000 people in the UK waiting for an organ transplant, but only around 1,400 donors a year. Donor numbers are currently so low, that you are more likely to need an organ transplant or know someone who needs one, than to become an organ donor yourself.
Organ Donation Week, running from 18 to 24 September, is an annual campaign that raises awareness, and this year organisers hope to register 25,000 more people. It’s simple - the more people who agree to become organ donors after they die, the more lives can be saved.
Katie Law is the Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation at Royal Surrey, and she works closely with the team in critical care to ensure the highest level of care is given to patients who could potentially go on to donate their organs.
She also works with patients’ families, discussing organ donation with them as part of end-of-life care planning and ensuring they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Katie finds that some families are aware of their loved one’s opt-in decision, whereas others are surprised, but that when families choose to support the decision, they find comfort in knowing they are saving someone else’s life.
It can take as little as 24 hours to find suitable recipients and arrange for specialist transplant surgeons to come to the hospital, and Katie ensures the patient’s dignity and family wishes are met throughout the process. Following donation Katie keeps in touch with the family, informing them about the person their loved one was able to help.
“I feel honoured to meet incredibly brave families every day and I am always in awe of the generosity people show despite their loss.
“As part of Organ Donation Week, I want to reach out to let people know how important it is that we explore organ donation for every person who has the potential to donate, and that their families are given the chance to discuss this with a Specialist Nurse like myself.
“I also encourage everyone to learn more about organ donation, and consider following the simple steps to register their own decision.”
Since August 2021 Royal Surrey has supported five people to donate their organs, resulting in 13 life-saving transplants. The average age of the recipient receiving the gift of an organ was 54 and one recipient had waited over 12 years for their transplant, meaning their life would have been totally transformed by the donation.
Find out the facts to inform your own decision about organ donation and learn how to talk to loved ones about it, via the NHS Organ Donation website.
Registering your decision takes two minutes and could save up to nine lives. Simply complete this form.
If you have recorded a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and want to update your details, change or reaffirm your decision, you can complete the Amend your details form or call 0300 123 23 23.
All the major religions and belief systems in the UK are open to the principles of organ donation and transplantation and accept that organ donation is an individual choice.