Organ donation: make your wishes known

Posted on 28/10/2014 by


Organ Donation Scotland campaign launched

15454867498_96c62a5dd6_zUp to a hundred more lives could be saved each year if family authorisation rates for organ donation increase. The figure was revealed to coincide with the launch of the Organ Donation Scotland campaign, which is encouraging Scots to make their organ donation wishes known.

Sharing organ donation wishes remains fundamental to relatives honouring a loved one’s choices in the event of their death – and the campaign is urging people who have made the positive decision to be an organ donor to talk it through with their family.

Since 2010/11, the family authorisation rate for organ donation – when a family member agrees that donation can proceed – has increased from 57.1 per cent to 61.6 per cent. If the rate was to further increase to 80 per cent, around 90 more lives could be saved each year.

Transplant recipient Bob James, 61, who is approaching the one-year anniversary of his successful liver transplant, met with Public Health Minister Michael Matheson to share his story.

The retired fire-fighter has been able to return to the full time volunteering role he loves at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, thanks to the special gift that saved his life.

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: “Bob’s story shows how transplantation can transform lives. That is why we’re encouraging people who have made the decision to be an organ donor to share their wishes with loved ones.

“We want Scotland to be amongst the best performing countries in the world for donation and transplantation and huge progress is being made, with a 62 per cent increase in transplants since 2007/8 and over 41 per cent of Scots now on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

“It’s encouraging to note that the number of people waiting for a transplant has fallen to the lowest level we have seen in years, however with around 550 people in Scotland still waiting for a life-saving transplant, its important people are aware of why talking about organ donation and joining the register could save lives.”

Bob, from Lennoxtown, had his liver transplant in November 2013 after doctors told him his liver was failing. Unbeknown to Bob, he had an underlying genetic condition, haemochromatosis, which went undiagnosed as his liver function was masked by another existing condition, Gilbert’s Syndrome.

Bob said: “The Christmas before the transplant I started to feel very unwell, and my GP immediately referred me to Stobhill Hospital where tests showed there were problems with my liver. I couldn’t believe it. I remember thinking it was ironic that I had liver problems as I’m practically teetotal, but I didn’t know at this point I had haemochromatosis.”

Bob was put on medication and continued with life, but over the next ten months his health slowly deteriorated.

He said: “I felt pretty bad. I was getting slower and slower, the smallest things felt like a real effort. I’d lost enthusiasm for everything and my quality of life was rapidly going downhill. I just thought I was getting old, I’d no idea how serious it was.”

Bob was referred to the Transplant Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and after a series of tests he was told that he needed to be put on the waiting list for a liver transplant. Whilst getting his head around the news, Bob received the call that a suitable donor liver had been found, just 48 hours after being listed for transplant.

He said: “I had no idea it was going to happen so quickly; the day before I’d been working at the Museum. Nine hours after I got the call, I was at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh prepped and ready for a transplant. Within two days I came round in the high dependency ward with almost no pain and feeling overall, pretty well. Looking back, it really was quite remarkable.

“I’ve been amazed at the speed of my recovery. Now the haemochromatosis has been diagnosed, it’s being managed and I’m back doing what I love, volunteering five days a week at the museum. I feel better than ever.

“I do know I’ve been remarkably lucky and will always be eternally grateful to the person who saved my life by making the decision to donate their organs. People talk about fire fighters being brave, but in my eyes, that person was braver than any fire fighter. Without them making that decision, I might not be here today.

“I’d urge anyone who wants to be an organ donor to share their wishes with family members. It’s so important. For me, it’s meant me getting my life back and I intend to live it to the full.”