Ok so a lot of us know the WI has a passion for cakes, but here at the Ladybirds the campaigning side of the Women’s Institute is just as close to our (cake fuelled) hearts! In 2014 a national resolution was passed to get members talking about organ donation, so in our last meeting we explored the sensitive issue with a talk from a local transplant nurse. Thank you to our member Kiemia for this write up…
Organ donation is something that is very rarely spoken about. As a nation we are so closed when it comes to discussions around death so when the lovely Heidi Kiely, a specialist nurse from Addenbrookes, broke the ice and encouraged us to discuss this with no prejudice, we were really shocked by some of the statistics.
On average about 1,500-2,000 people die in the UK every day. And out of that number are you aware that 4 people (yes only 4) are suitable to donate their organs. That’s because we have to be ventilated in ICU at the time of death for our organs to be considered as suitable. What a shocking statistic considering that there are currently 7,500 people waiting for an organ transplant and 4 will die each day waiting for an organ. There were many gasps around the room when these statistics were announced.
Why are there not enough organ donors?
The main problem surrounding organ donation is the lack of conversation that we need to start having with our friends and family. Organ donation is not for everyone, and this is by no means a cheap sales technique to make everyone become an organ donor. But do your loved ones know what you would like to happen to your organs should you pass away on a ventilator? Or what would your next of kin like you to decide if you were faced with this decision about them? If you are able to make that decision easier on your family should this situation ever occur then surely that is worth a conversation?
So what does organ donation actually involve?
If you are declared brain dead or pass away on a ventilator your family will at some stage during your death be approached by someone like Heidi to discuss whether or not organ donation is something that you would like to consider. Heidi is not a salesperson. She is not there to tell you what to do but is there to advise you in what your options are, explain what organ donation means for you and go over any relevant paperwork if the decision to become an organ donor has been made.
What if the deceased is not on the organ donor register?
If the deceased is not on the organ donor register then Heidi will have a conversation with their next of kin. It is up to them at this point to decide what they would like to do and Heidi is there to answer any questions or concerns, and also not to push them into making any decision that is not right for them.
What if the deceased is on the organ donor register? Is it a simpler process?
Well, not exactly. The process is still slightly tricky because the next of kin are in charge of any decision made, and at this point if they don’t feel comfortable with the organ donation going ahead then they are able to put a stop to it.
What is the process if they have decided to go for organ donation?
If the family have agreed to donate the organs of their loved ones then this is when Heidi’s job really is most admirable. The next of kin have a lot of paperwork to get through but Heidi will ensure that all of this is carried out in the most dignified and sensitive manner. The organs are screened and tested for compatibility,and suitable candidates to recieve the organs are found and informed. These candidates are then taken to their local hospital, prepared for the opportunity of an organ transplant, and depending on what organ is being transplanted depends on the length of time the doctors and medical teams have to remove the organ from one body and implant it into the other. This process is a very delicate procedure with an almost military precision in ensuring that everyone involved is in the right place at the right time to get the best possible outcome. Heidi will sit with the family throughout this entire process and this can take upwards of 12 hours.
Do I have to donate all of my organs?
The simple answer to this is no. You don’t have to donate all of your organs. When you sign up to the register you will notice you have a choice as to which organs to donate. And not all of your organs will be suitable for donation. If you have passed away due to cancer then most of your organs will not be suitable, but your tissue may still be used.
What can we do to help?
The most important thing to do is to talk. Talk to your family, friends, colleagues, parents, siblings and children. Understand what they would like you to do if you are ever faced with this situation, and explain to them what you would like them to do.
There are not many things that we can guarantee in life but one thing we can guarantee is that we are all going to die. Think about giving someone else a chance when your own time is up by taking a look at https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk Even if you don’t sign up just talk to your friends and family, share your thoughts and make it clear what you would like if they’re faced with this difficult decision. You’ll be making it easier for those around you if they are ever faced with this situation.