‘I simply wouldn’t be here without the gift of organ donation’
Six months have passed since the law change on organ donation – meaning it is now an opt out system which assumes people are willing to donate unless they say otherwise.
For the first time since the new law came into effect on May 20, 2020, NHS Blood and Transplant are publishing initial data which highlights the positive impact the new law has had to date in helping to save lives through the gift of organ donation.
Initial figures collated up until October 31 2020 show that so far 135 people have donated their organs, after being considered as willing to donate as they had not expressed an organ donation decision during their lifetime.
These donations account for 26 per cent of all donations that took place during the same time period and resulted in a total of 341 organs transplanted.
Anthony Clarkson, director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Although the law change came into effect in the midst of the first lockdown, we have been able to complete training for all of our specialist nurses and implement the new law across the country.
“It is still early days, but we have been really encouraged by the levels of support shown for organ donation and the new law over the last six months.
“While it is important to remember that many of these families may have agreed to organ donation even if the law hadn’t changed, for others, it has provided them with the confidence to allow organ donation to go ahead.”
Ultimately, the family makes the final decision if the time comes but chatting about your wishes with family members can give them the confidence to make a decision at what is a very difficult and dark time.
Hollie Trezise, 32, from Littlehampton, lost her husband Seb, at the age of 32, back in June 2018 after just two years of marriage.
Seb was a disabled athlete and had a seizure which caused a cardiac arrest. He was a fit and healthy discus thrower and worked as a youth worker. His death was very sudden and not connected to his spina bifida.
Following the seizure, he was rushed to Worthing Hospital where he was put on a ventilator but then Hollie received the crushing news she knew was coming – Seb was not going to survive.
She said: “They said the organs are preserved and would we, as his family, consent to donation.
“Seb has signed the organ register five separate times in his life, on his driving license for example, but we still had to give consent to donate. Obviously we said yes. It was the obvious choice because of the kind of person Seb was. He always wanted to help others and we knew it would have been what he wanted.
“It is tough, because the question comes immediately after being told your loved one is not going to survive. I have spoken to people since about it and friends have said they are not sure they could have made that decision, but for us it was right.
“We had spoken about organ donation in the past because it had been covered on a television programme. It is difficult because it is about death and it seems depressing but it is important.”
Seb’s organs went on to help three people in desperate need of a transplant.
Hollie said, “A man in his 60s received his liver, a lady in her 50s had his kidney and a girl in her 30s had his lungs. That last one was really poignant to me because Seb was in his 30s when he died and she wrote to me and told me how life changing it had been for her.
“It doesn’t change the fact we have lost the person we love but it helps to humanise the gift he has given.”
Crawley mum-of-two Kim Fairman received a liver transplant in 2013. Kim was suffering from a rare genetic disease and had lost her brother, at just 29, to the same illness in 2010.
When she became ill and was put on the transplant list, she was convinced she was not going to be able to see her seven-year-old daughter, Maddi, grow up.
Kim said: “It was very, very scary and my little girl had seen her uncle die and now mummy was very poorly and of course my parents had watched their son die. I felt I had to stay strong for the family.
“On December 12, 2012 I was prioritised on the transplant waiting list. I was incredibly poorly and I was preparing for my final Christmas with my little girl. On Decmeber 27 they found a match but it didn’t have any good fats but then in January 2013 they thankfully found a liver for me.”
Kim was 32 at the time and is now 40. The liver transplant was successful and has transformed her life, enabling her to have a second child – baby Chloe was born just days before the first Covid-19 national lockdown.
Kim said: “After the transplant I felt well for the first time in 16 years and to be honest I was in shock. I kept thinking, you’re not ill, you’re not going to die – it was hard to take in. I also felt guilt for the donor’s family but was also incredibly grateful to them for consenting to organ donation.
“It was amazing to go out on bike rides with my daughter and bake cakes together. I couldn’t do any of those things before, I just had to keep sleeping because I had no energy.”
Kim has also started a college course in accounting and is enjoying life as a new mum.
She had to shield during the first lockdown, starting on the day of her 4oth birthday with a newborn baby, but she couldn’t be happier.
She said: “I wouldn’t have been able to have another baby without the transplant. I wouldn’t even be here today. Lockdown gave us a chance to enjoy quality time and I feel very lucky.”
Sixty-one-year-old Jacquie Dowding has had two kidney transplants and has done everything she can to live life to the full. As a professional sailor and principal of the Sail Boat Project, based in Chichester, Jacquie lives on her boat in Brighton Marina,and uses her seafaring talents to raise awareness for organ donation. She has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific and the Panama Canal. Jacquie has sailed in the Round the Island Yacht Race with seven transplant recipients and taken part in the Transplant Games. With each challenge, she flies the flag for organ donation and encourages people to talk to their families about their wishes. She is also an environmental campaigner and has now clocked up 25,000 nautical miles.
Jacquie, who is currently writing a book, said: “My transplant has enabled me massive freedom and inspired me to live life to the full and go for my dreams.”