The UK’s longest waiting heart transplant patient is supporting a call for ‘no complacency’ from NHS Blood and Transplant after 3,000 potential transplants were missed in the last year because families said ‘no’ to donating their relative’s organs.
NHS Blood and Transplant are urging families to talk during Organ Donation Week (September 3rd to 9th) with the message ‘Words Save Lives’
Surveys show around 80% of people support organ donation but only 33% of people have told their family and friends their wishes.
The longest waiting patient on the current UK heart transplant list is backing this urgent call for people to talk to their families about organ donation. Gareth Evans from Stockport, a married 45-year-old father of two boys, has been on the waiting list for nine years and was recently moved to the urgent waiting list due to his declining health. Having had a heart transplant in 1990 at the age of 17, Gareth has had 28 extra years from his transplanted organ, but this heart is now failing and he’s hoping to receive a second transplant. He has spent the last three months in Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.
Gareth says: “Having a new heart is like being a little boy and having Christmas every day, but having to tell the family you may not make it, is the most difficult thing to do. Thankfully we are all positive and always look to the future.
“It was a lot easier to get through as a 17-year-old lad. Now I have the most awesome wife and kids that I worry about and get very emotional when thinking about them. We need more donors now to save more lives every day. People shouldn’t just sit there and hope their families know what they want. There are people who need their lives saved today, mine included. Organ donation saves lives and I am so grateful for that every day.”
Anthony Clarkson, Interim Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, added: “We don’t want people to die because of a fatal complacency; because you know you want to be an organ donor you presume your loved ones know it too.
“People like Gareth are living moment to moment, in desperate need of someone saying ‘yes’ to donation – their lives depend upon a selfless organ donor and their brave family agreeing to donate their organs for transplant now.
“We all know that organ donation legislation will change in England and Scotland in future years but the harsh fact is people are dying, right now, waiting for an organ and it will still be important for people to know your decision. Please act on your belief in organ donation, share your wishes and find out what your loved ones would want for themselves. Only by sharing our views can we make it easier for our families should the time ever come.”
As of 16th August this year, there are 6,133 people on the transplant waiting list; 280 people are waiting for a heart transplant, including 29 children. Every day across the UK, around three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough organ donors.
You can make things easier for family and your loved ones by telling them you want to donate. Anyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register; age and medical conditions are not necessarily a barrier.
More than 25 million people are already on the NHS Organ Donor Register, join them today and tell your family you want to save lives. It is quick and easy to join the NHS Organ Donor Register by calling NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk