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Sharing the gift of life this Organ Donation Week


People are being urged to talk to their loved ones about organ donation to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by an organ transplant.

This week (Monday 18 – Sunday 24 September) is Organ Donation Week (ODW), a celebration of organ donation across the UK and an opportunity to encourage people to consider and discuss their organ donation wishes.

Specialist nurses at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) have arranged a range of activities to mark ODW, including the unveiling of a specially-commissioned memorial, called The Gift of Life, that aims to recognise the contribution of organ and tissue donors and the gift of life they have given.

In addition, there will be promotional stalls promoting organ donation, and staff will be speaking with students at the Oxford Brookes University Freshers' Fair.

The Sheldonian Theatre and Radcliffe Infirmary, both in Oxford, and the Islip village church will be lit up pink, the colour of the country’s 'Yes I Donate' organ donation campaign.

NHS Blood and Transplant are the facilitators of the NHS Organ Donor Register, which is responsible for matching donors to people who are waiting for a transplant. A total of 4,532 patients received donated organs from 2,386 donors – living and deceased – in the UK in 2022/23.

There were 36 patients – including adults and children – who donated their organs after death at the John Radcliffe Hospital in the 2022/23 financial year, helping 97 people of all ages in need of a transplant.

'This is mum all over, still giving even in death'

When Sally Wright died in September 2022 aged 59, her family knew exactly what to do. Her daughter, Alex Wright, was in no doubt that she wanted her organs to be donated.

Sally, who lived in Oxford and grew up in Headington, had been on the NHS Organ Donor Register for some time and, after death, donated both kidneys and her liver, as well as her heart valves and tissue.

Her wishes were not just important to her, but also to her family.

Alex, a 33-year-old NHS receptionist supervisor, is using her mum's legacy of compassion and generosity to encourage others to let their loved ones know their organ and tissue donation wishes to help those waiting for a transplant.

Alex said: "My mum always spoke about organ donation and liked the idea of giving them to help others. It was important to us as a family to know her intentions as we knew how strongly our mum felt about organ donation, and we wanted to honour her wishes.

"People should let their loved ones know their intentions so they are aware that is what the person wants, and so people are encouraged to not see it as a negative but as a positive.

"We are immensely proud of our mum. She was always so caring and kind to others. She would always give what she could for her family and friends, so this is just our mum all over, still giving even in death."

'I felt bound to consider making a contribution of my own'

Although most organ and tissue donation happens after someone has died, some organs can be donated when the donor is alive.

Across the UK, more than 1,000 people each year donate a kidney or part of their liver while they are still alive to a relative, friend or someone they do not know.

John, not his real name, is a Consultant at OUH and underwent donor nephrectomy surgery – when a healthy kidney is removed from a living donor for the purpose of transplantation – at the Churchill Hospital in April 2023.

It was a desire of the father-of-two, who is also a regular blood donor, to donate a kidney since he qualified as a doctor many years before.

John said: "I had facilitated others' decisions to offer their relatives' organs after death. Humbled by their generosity in their time of grief, I felt bound to consider making a contribution of my own.

"I considered my donation to be to the NHS Transplant Service, rather than to a specific 'unknown' individual. While I do not know the ultimate destination of my donation, I am confident that it has been of some use to this system that I believe in, and I shall remain satisfied even if I never know."

He added: "I would urge everybody to pause and reflect that their wishes, whether to donate before or after death, are best discussed with their family in good time."

Let your loved ones know

Georgina O'Brien, a Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation at OUH, said: "More than 50,000 people are alive in the UK today thanks to the life-saving gift of organ donation. This wouldn't be possible without the generosity of all the incredible donors and their families who have given their support for donation during what is often the most difficult of times.

"It is important to register your decision and let your family know what you want to happen. Families are always consulted when their loved ones die and are able to donate."

People can find out more and register their decision by visiting the NHS Organ Donor Register – and please share your decision with your family.