We would like to bring to the attention of your readers that July 5-12 is National Transplant Week.
We were very pleased to hear the excellent news earlier this year that the number of people who have joined the NHS organ donor register in the UK has doubled from eight million (2001) to an all-time high of 16 million, reaching the proposed target a year ahead of schedule.
Our son, Aaron, who received a combined liver and small bowel transplant when he was just three years old, was asked at the time of the announcement to join with others to help spread the good news as well as appeal for more to join, which prompted him to join the organ donor register himself to help encourage others to do the same.
We remember him saying: "How can I ask people to join when I haven't?" (12 years of age is considered legally competent for children to register themselves in Scotland – parental consent is required for younger children). There was even greater news to follow. Scotland's organ donation rate hit a 10-year high. More than 1.6 million people in Scotland have agreed to donate their organs after death which is 32 per cent of the Scottish population, greater than anywhere else in the UK (average 25 per cent) – something we can all be very proud of.
However, the gap between supply and demand for organs is still growing and 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.
Aaron attends Birmingham Children's Hospital liver unit every year for routine investigations. We were there just a few weeks ago and it is at such times that I witness the tragic reality of the desperate need for more donors – children are literally dying waiting.
An adult liver can save the lives of two children, one organ/tissue donor can save the lives of up to nine people and drastically improve the quality of lives 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.
So, why aren't there more of us registered as potential organ donors?
There are a number of reasons. One is the self-examination of our own mortality which some will find uncomfortable, some people don't like the thought of their bodies being 'cut up' when they die, some think they are unable to register for some medical reason, but there are only two conditions where organ donation is ruled out completely – when you are diagnosed with HIV or CJD. Others think it's down to their age, whereas age is irrelevant – you can become an organ/tissue donor from just two months to into your 80s and beyond. Others feel they may be going against their religion – you can rest assured all major religions in the UK support the principles of organ donation.
Some people worry that their organs will be taken once mistakenly pronounced dead (when they are still alive), or that somehow their medical care will be less – this is categorically not the case as strict legal, medical and ethical laws govern the pronunciation of death in the UK.
The main reason though is simply that people haven't got round to signing up yet. We know that millions more support organ donation. When asked most people say "yes", but have still done nothing about it. If they did sign up then many more lives could be saved.
Aaron is one of the fortunate ones. His life was saved nine years ago 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, too. Aaron has a wonderful quality of life, enjoying an active lifestyle. He will be competing once again at the British Transplant Games in Coventry in a few weeks time – two weeks after that he will become a teenager, thanks to his life-giving donor.
If you haven't already signed up then why not come along and see us at Tesco in Peebles on July 9 between 2-6pm, or in Peebles High Street outside the Tontine Hotel on July 11 from 10.30am-12.30pm. We will have a wee table with information leaflets, registration forms, donor cards etc. and, of course, we will be more than pleased to try and answer any questions you may have.
You can also register as a potential organ donor by calling 0845 60 60 400 or via the UK Blood & Transplant website – www.uktransplant.org.uk
Catriona and William Gray