The family of one of the UK’s oldest donors this year, is urging people to support organ donation no matter what their age.
The annual Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report published in July by NHS Blood and Transplant, revealed that only 21% of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register were aged over 50 when they registered. In comparison, 72% of people who die in circumstances where they can be referred for potential donation are now aged over 50.
Many over 50s don’t join the register or tell their families they want to donate because they don’t think their organs could help other people. Anyone can register to donate their organs and tissue when they die, regardless of their age or medical conditions. The recent report revealed that 411 people died waiting for a transplant last year; if more people in the older age groups registered on the Organ Donation Register, or simply told their families they supported donation, even more lives would be saved.
Ann Butler, of May Hill in Gloucestershire, was 83 when she had a brain haemorrhage and was able to donate her liver for a lifesaving transplant. Her niece, Leona Hanwell, 60, said: ‘Ann was very caring and very kind and sympathetic to people. It didn’t surprise me at all that she was on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
‘It did surprise me that she was able to donate; I just felt she was maybe too old. It shows people can be a lifesaver through to their 80s and I hope other people do it too.
‘We heard the liver went to a male recipient. I was really pleased to get the letter. It just feels like in one sense she didn’t pass away. There was a glimmer of hope, a bit of happiness. A little bit of comfort that you can take.’
Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: ‘Organ donation saves lives and more and more people aged over 50 are supporting donation.
‘However, too many people mistakenly assume their age means their organs won’t be healthy enough to help other people. People in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s can all save lives.
‘Many more lives could be saved if people in these age groups told their families they want to donate. You may not be able to donate your heart or lungs, but many can still save lives through donating organs such as their kidneys and liver. Not everyone can donate, but doctors will able to decide if you can help others.’
She added: ‘Ann’s donation is inspirational. We hope many more people aged over 50 are inspired to tell their families they want to save lives through organ donation. Don’t leave your family guessing what you want.’
Becoming an organ donor is simple and can bring a lifetime of health and happiness to those who are waiting for a transplant.
If you would like to join the Organ Donation Register, or would like more information, you can contact NHS Organ Donation on 0300 123 23 23 or go to their website www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
Whatever your wishes, remember to make sure you tell your family, friends, GP and carers.