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Local health leaders urge people to discuss their wishes during Organ Donation Week

Local health leaders urge people to discuss their wishes during Organ Donation Week
05 September 2018

We're urging people in Eastern Cheshire to discuss their wishes during Organ Donation Week 2018.

The call from our clinicians and those at East Cheshire NHS Trust comes after national figures showed around 3,000 lifesaving transplants were missed in the last year because families said no to donating their relatives’ organs.

Despite record levels of organ donation, family refusals are the biggest barrier to organ donation. Surveys show around 80 per cent of people support organ donation. However only 33 per cent of people have told their family that they want to donate and, in circumstances where a family does not know their loved one's wishes, they are far more likely to refuse to give their consent to organ donation.

Dr John Hunter, East Cheshire NHS Trust’s medical director and clinical lead for organ donation, said: “Just because you know you want to be an organ donor does not necessarily mean your loved ones will know that too, so please make sure that you join the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your family your wishes.

“The role played by families around donation is critical and they are much more likely to support organ donation if they know what your wishes are.”

Dr Paul Bowen, our clinical chair and GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton added: “If you lose a loved one in a situation which means they may be able to donate their organs, it is often in sudden and traumatic circumstances, so accepting your family member’s decision can be hard.

“However, many families find great comfort in knowing that their loved one’s gift has allowed someone else to keep on living and prevented that person’s family from suffering unnecessary grief. That’s why it’s vital for local families to talk about the issue this week and make sure they understand each other’s wishes.”

The appeal is being supported by a local man who needs a heart transplant in order to remove his dependency on cumbersome and intrusive machinery.

Ian Wilton, of Obelisk Way, Congleton, an experienced mountaineer, was previously fit and healthy before he had a heart attack in Snowdonia National Park in August 2017.

Due to the time it took to rescue 54-year-old Mr Wilton from a mountain in bad weather and then transfer him to a suitable hospital, his heart sustained significant damage. He now survives by being constantly attached to a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – an internally-implanted mechanical pump, powered by external batteries via a cable that enters his abdomen, which performs the function of a heart. Mr Wilton will need a heart transplant in order to begin to live normally again.  

Mr Wilton said: “It still feels surreal to wake up every morning tethered to four metres of electric cable plugged into the mains but I am incredibly grateful to have this LVAD – a life-limiting ‘bridge to transplant’.

“My life literally changed overnight – I’m no longer able to work, or even drive, and dependant on others to supervise and assist with many daily living activities.

“Certainly my story shows that anyone can find themselves in need of a transplant and, while a lifelong ‘donor card holder’ (now ironically with only eight of nine functioning organs available) I would urge everyone to sign up to be a donor and, most importantly, tell your family about your wishes.”

Organ Donation Week runs from 3 to 9 September and, this year, national body NHS Blood and Transplant is urging families to talk with the message ‘Words Save Lives’.

Last year, 66 per cent of families in the UK agreed to donate. However that still meant 1,148 families declined to support organ donation. If all those families had agreed to donate, that would have led to nearly 3,000 extra transplants, based on the average number of transplants per deceased donor over that year. There are currently 6,133 people on the transplant waiting list.

More than 25 million people are already on the NHS Organ Donor Register, join them today and tell your family you want to save lives. Click here to register.