Giving life when one has gone

We would like to bring to the attention of your readers that July 4-10 is National Transplant Week.

We were very pleased to hear some excellent news this month that the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register has reached a record 18 million. This means that in the UK as a whole, nearly 30 per cent of the people have registered their willingness to help others live in the event of their death. All areas of the UK show a marked increase in people signing up, but once again we can be a proud nation as Scotland continues to lead the way, with more than 37 per cent of our population now registered.

Our 14-year-old son Aaron was fortunate to have received a life-saving combined liver and small bowel transplant 11 years ago when he was just three-year-old.

He attends Birmingham Children’s Hospital liver unit every year for routine investigations. We were due to be there for a few days at the start of National Transplant Week and it is while there that we are reminded of the tragic reality of the desperate need for more donors – children are literally dying waiting.

There are more than 10,000 people currently waiting for a transplant in the UK – tragically, around 1,000 people are expected to die this year alone while waiting for a life-saving transplant. Around 100 of them will be children. An adult liver can save the lives of two people; one organ/tissue donor can save the lives of up to nine people and dramatically improve life quality of so many more.

Organ transplantation is one of our modern-day miracles of medicine, but it depends entirely on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to make this life-saving gift to others, enabling more than 3,000 people in the UK every year to take on a new lease of life.

The amount of organs available for transplantation has fallen for several reasons. Only a very small number of people die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs. Because organs have to be transplanted very soon after someone has died they can only be donated by someone who has died in hospital. Usually organs come from people who are certified dead while on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit, generally as a result of a brain haemorrhage, major accident like a car crash, or a stroke.

The numbers of people, particularly younger people, dying in these circumstances is falling, mainly because of welcome improvements in road safety, medical advances in the treatment of patients and the prevention of strokes in younger people. While such a small minority of people die in circumstances which would enable their organs to be donated, many people can donate their tissue after their death, such as heart valves, bone and corneas (the gift of sight).

Another major reason for the shortage of organs is that many people simply have not recorded their wishes about donation or discussed it with their families. In the UK organs and tissue from a potential donor will only be used if that is their wish.

Putting your name on the register makes it easier for the NHS to establish your wishes and for those closest to you in life to follow them. If your wishes are not clear, the person closest to you in life will be asked what they think you would have wanted, so it is important that you make sure they are aware of your views.

Children can register, but their parents, guardians or those with parental responsibility will be asked to provide their consent. There are currently more than 600,000 under-16s on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Our son Aaron is one of the lucky ones. His life was saved when an amazing mother, on the tragic and untimely death of her child, donated his organs. Not only was our son’s life saved, but that of three others were too. Aaron has a wonderful quality of life, enjoying an active lifestyle. He will be competing once again at the British Transplant Games, to be held this year in Belfast, in just a few weeks’ time.

We will once again be holding awareness stalls in Peebles at Tesco today, 10am-4pm, and in High Street outside the Tontine Hotel on Saturday, 10am-noon. We will have information leaflets and registration forms. You can register as a potential organ donor by calling the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23, texting the word SAVE to 84118 or fill in the online form via the website http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk

Catriona, William, Aaron and Jamie Gray

Connor Street

Peebles