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Post: The greatest gift this Christmas could be saving a life

The greatest gift this Christmas could be saving a life

NHS Blood and Transplant calls on families in Essex to talk about organ donation over the festive season

As Christmas approaches NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on families in Essex to talk about organ donation and register their decision to help save lives.

With some families hoping to get together for Christmas for the first time since the pandemic began, NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to take a moment during the celebrations to talk about their organ donation decision and to leave their family members certain of what they want to happen.

There are currently 107* patients awaiting the life-saving gift of an organ transplant in Essex and many of their lives could be saved or significantly improved if a donor is found. Yet every day across the UK someone dies in need of an organ transplant.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHSBT, says: “Wherever and however people in Essex plan to spend this Christmas, we hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the festivities and spend some much needed time with family and friends.

For many thousands of people across the country, including 76 people in Essex who have had transplants this year**, the only reason that they are able to enjoy a happy and healthy Christmas is thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family who so selflessly chose to give the gift of life. However, there are still thousands of people who are still desperately hoping and waiting for the transplant that will transform their life.

“Please take a moment this Christmas to let your family know your organ donation decision. Those conversations could help save the lives of people currently spending their Christmas waiting for a transplant.”

 

Barry Edgson, 51, from Southend is celebrating a very different Christmas this year after Receiving a double lung transplant in April.
Barry suffered from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema which was diagnosed in 2015. He had lung reduction surgery in 2018 which helped for a short term however after just a few months Barry needed oxygen to help him breath and his condition continue to decline. In 2019 Barry was informed that a lung transplant would be the only course of treatment. Barry was placed on the organ transplant waiting list but as Barry continued to become unwell he was moved onto the priority list. Atter a few weeks on the list Barry received the call that a pair of lungs had become available.

Barry said “Last Christmas I spent most of the day in bed, it was really tough. I had just lost my Dad (who also suffered with COPD) and I was on oxygen permanently. I have a five-year-old boy, Brooke, and was able to sit and open presents with him but could only last for an hour or so. I struggled to leave the house, I would have panic attacks thinking about it and it was really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Fast forward a few months and I couldn’t believe my luck when we got the call. It was a huge emotional roller coaster. Surgery took 17 hours and I spent seven weeks in hospital but to be able to walk down the corridor and out of the hospital without being attached to oxygen was unbelievable. I can’t put into words how lucky I feel to have been given this second chance, I am so grateful to the family who said yes and agreed to donate their loved one organs.

“The difference it has made in my life is massive. My son doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t on oxygen and has had to live his young life watching me being ill and going in and out of hospital. He really hasn’t had his Dad about and still worries now when I have my follow up appointments and pulmonary rehab but thanks to my donor, their family and all the team at Southend and Papworth hospitals I can now do some of the normal everyday activities that were impossible before. I could even walk Brooke into school on his very first day in September.”

“Organ donation was not something I had ever thought about before I became ill, you never think something like this will happen to you but it has transformed my life and I hope I can encourage more families to talk about organ donation at their get togethers over Christmas.

“My transplant has meant I can spend Christmas out of bed for the first time in years, I can spend Christmas Day out of the house and visit my in laws as well as spend quality time with family and friends. We have had the Christmas Elf on the Shelf visit this year too and I have been able to see the joy on Brooke’s face as we do more and more together. He even asked me if I knew the way to his Granddad’s house as he doesn’t remember a time when I have been able to visit with him.

“Thinking back over the past year makes me so emotional, I never expected my life to change the way it has but I am now able to look forward to a special family Christmas with Brooke and my partner Helen. I am looking forward to 2022 and being able to have more adventures with my boy and enjoy quality family time with hopefully a little holiday too. I am treasuring every single day of my new life and it is all thanks to my donor and their family, I will never be able to thank them enough.”

 

Even though the law around organ donation has now moved to an opt out system across England, Wales, and Scotland, many are still not aware that families will still always be consulted before organ donation goes ahead.

While families are more likely, and find it easier, to support donation when they already know it is what their loved one wanted, only 42% of the UK population have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and just 37% say that they have shared their organ donation decision with their family.

Anthony Clarkson adds, “We know that for many thousands of people across the UK, including 107 people in Essex, the greatest gift they could receive this year will be a phone call telling them that a donor has been found for them. Please let your family know your organ donation decision and leave them certain of your decision”.

For more information, or to register your organ donation decision, please visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.