National Organ Transplant Week

This week is National Organ Transplant Week in the UK and so this post is to extol the value of being an organ donor. This is a book blog first and foremost but once in a while something comes along that I feel too passionately about to not mention. This is one of those things.

I am lucky enough to never have had any serious medical problems and happily no one in my family has ever had to endure the horror of waiting for an organ and I hope we never will. Nonetheless I have always had strong feelings about the importance of organ donation.

The human body is an amazing thing which has evolved against all the odds to make us all intelligent, loving sentient beings who can think, laugh, cry and blow our noses but it can’t be perfect. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes because of something we did to our bodies, sometimes because of a mutation that was passed on to us by a parent. Sometimes because of dumb bad luck. And sometimes we’re lucky enough to know how to put that thing right.

Organ transplantation is no mean feat. From the earliest experiments it’s been fraught with difficulty. How do you know which organ is which? How do you keep the dead person’s organ alive for transplant? How do you fit a new organ in and wire it up correctly? And how do you stop the recipient’s body hunting down and destroying the new organ?

But remarkably we now have the answers to all those question and organ transplantation is now a daily reality allowing thousands of people across the world to live longer, healthier, happier lives. And ain’t that a wondrous thing?

But it isn’t wondrous for everyone. In the UK last year 3,960 transplants were carried out saving countless lives. But there are still more than 10,000 people waiting for organs and an estimated 1,000 of them will die each year because there simply aren’t enough to go round.

Many times when someone dies they will be unable to donate their organs because of illness, because they died outside of hospital and their organs couldn’t be harvested in time but most often because they aren’t on the organ donor list. In fact only 31% of the population are on the NHSBT organ donor list. But how many of the other 69% would take an organ if they needed it? I’d bet most of them would.

So why do people refuse to donate their organs? Is it because of fear? Fear of what will happen to their organ? How can anyone be afraid to save a life? After you die your organs will rot away into nothing and how anyone can prefer that to allowing a part of them to live on and give the amazing gift of life to another person I will never understand.

I am on the list; it says so on my driving licence and my family are all aware of my wishes so when the time does come I hope to go on to save many lives rather than taking all of my tissues to the grave with me. I fully support the notion of an opt-out system where organs will be harvested unless otherwise stated like the one which has recently been brought in in Wales (but not the rest of the UK). but until that day comes I will continue using every argument I can think of to talk as many people as possible into signing up to the organ donor register. So if you’re not signed up yet, do it. Do it now.

Those in the UK click here: http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ those elsewhere try here: http://worldwidedonorlinks.blogspot.co.uk/ and if you don’t find your country then Google it.

It will take 10 minutes of your time and you could transform many lives by donating your:

  • heart
  • lungs
  • liver
  • kidney
  • pancreas
  • small bowel
  • corneas
  • skin
  • tendons
  • bone
  • cartilage
  • heart valves

Not to mention that we can all donate blood as healthy living people. I hope you’re all doing that too.

Thank you for reading and I hope I’ve managed to put forward a persuasive argument but if you need any more convincing then read some of the stories here told by families of donors and by recipients and if they can’t change your mind then no one will: http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/newsroom/life_stories/index.asp

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