Please consider giving the gift of life... what a legacy to leave

There are too many healthy organs currently being cremated or buried in the ground when they could be used to give a great gift to someone, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column
Please consider giving the gift of life... what a legacy to leave

The story of how Orla Tinsley’s life was saved by a double lung transplant helped raise awareness of the need for organ donation.

A FRIEND of mine isn’t too well at the moment and is in need of a new heart. His own one has let him down so he is now depending on a transplant to literally save his life.

That’s a tough challenge to be facing, not only for him, but also for the family of the donor. A family somewhere has to suffer a great loss before he can begin his recovery.

Whenever we see our friends and family in trouble like that, we want to do whatever we can to make things right. We want to make them better. In this case, though, I’ve told him that as much as I like him, I’m not giving him mine.

On a more serious note though, I want to do the next best thing and highlight the need for organ donation and try to encourage as many as possible to consider signing up for it.

The provisional figures for 2018 show that there were 231 organ transplants performed in Ireland last year compared with 308 in 2017. This lower figure is mainly because organs are in short supply.

There are those who don’t like the idea of passing on their bits and pieces to be used by others when they finally depart planet Earth, and that’s fair enough.

Whether they make that choice because of religious beliefs or for personal reasons is neither here nor there. That’s their decision and they’re perfectly entitled to it.

But I’m sure there are many who are not aware of the serious shortage of organs or have never considered donation simply because it hasn’t been brought to their attention.

It is a subject that often only comes up when someone has just died, but it’s not a discussion to be had while a family is grieving. That needs to happen when everyone is in the fullness of health so that all involved are prepared for the next step if and when the time comes.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris wants to introduce an opt-out system of consent for organ donation, which would mean that we all consent to have our organs harvested for donation unless we specifically take the decision to withdraw that consent.

Under this system, when a person dies, consent would be deemed to have been granted unless the person, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor.

According to Mr Harris, 83% of those who were asked said that the proposed opt-out system would encourage them to discuss their intentions regarding organ donation with their next-of-kin.

These conversations need to happen and it’s important that we all consider our position on organ donation and that we make our views known to our loved ones.

This makes great sense to me. There are too many healthy organs currently being cremated or buried in the ground when they could be used to give a great gift to someone in need.

Strange Boat is a group representing the organ donation community and they say that for many people who are awaiting organ transplants, it can be a very long wait. It can be a time of great physical suffering, worry and anxiety, and only those in this situation can truly understand.

In 2015, Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) was established as the national service and they operate around the clock for 365 days a year.

Professor Jim Egan, Director of the ODTI, says that the message is a simple one, organ donation saves lives.

Thanks to the generosity of 98 families donating the organs of their loved ones, 308 people received the gift of life through transplant surgery in 2017 and he acknowledges the courage and generosity of families who have donated their loved one’s organs.

Awareness is a major factor in promoting organ donation and the proof of that can be seen in the huge increase in interest following a documentary on TV about Orla Tinsley and her double lung transplant. In the following ten days after that was shown, more than 9,000 people registered to become organ donors in Ireland.

Orla Tinsley had been a long-time sufferer of cystic fibrosis. She became a well-known campaigner for improved services for people living with the disease.

Her health deteriorated when she suffered a bilateral lung collapse and her condition worsened throughout 2017 and by December, she was on life support. Since her transplant, she has continued to make a remarkable recovery.

Larry Gogan was also in the news recently when it was announced he was leaving 2fm after 40 years, and during an interview, he revealed that he is receiving kidney dialysis. He spends four hours a day, three days a week in hospital, where his blood is removed, washed and then returned to his body.

That prompted other callers to contact the Joe Duffy Show the following day, to give their accounts of dealing with the same thing and this led to a conversation about organ donation.

There were stories of long-suffering patients in dire need of replacement organs and there were positive stories about life after transplants.

One caller told of being at death’s door with a failing heart, but he got a second chance of life after he received a heart from a 15-year-old girl who had been killed in a car accident.

That was obviously a tragic and traumatic experience for the young girl’s family at the time, but they must get some comfort from the fact that another person is living a normal, healthy life thanks to their bravery and generosity.

It makes sense to become an organ donor and that decision could save many lives.

You can apply for an Organ Donor Card online or free text the word ‘Donor’ to 50050 or Lo-call 1890 543 639.

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