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Organ Donation: my life was saved by a stranger

Written by Lifestyle

This spring, the law on organ donation is changing. From the 20th May, every single person in England will automatically be an organ donor after they die meaning that anyone who doesn’t want to be must actively opt out and take their name off the register.

We welcome this new opt-out system in the hope that it will encourage more people to donate and therefore contribute to solving the shortage of organs available for people in need of transplants. As a transplant patient myself, I know first-hand how important this is.

There are a number of reasons a person may need an organ transplant and in total, there are over 6,000 people waiting for one right now, here in the UK. Ten years ago, I was one of these people.  Born with congenital heart disease, I went into heart failure at just 10 years old after having major heart surgery that went wrong. I was placed on a ventilator and relied on around the clock care to keep me alive. Most evenings, my parents would leave not knowing whether I would make it through the night. Eventually, after 4 months on the intensive care unit, my family and I were told that the only way I would survive was if I received a heart transplant. 

3 people in the UK die every day waiting for a transplant

I was transferred to The Freeman hospital in Newcastle where after a month waiting, I received my gift of life. Unfortunately, because I had been ill for so long, my kidneys failed too. After spending 2 years on dialysis, my Mum (live) donated one of hers to me in 2012 and I have been well ever since. Others aren’t as lucky as me though as there simply aren’t enough organs to go around. 3 people in the UK die every day waiting for a transplant. 

This law change, brought about through years of campaigning, aims to solve this problem. There are misconceptions that you will no longer have a choice as to whether you donate your organs after your death and will be forced to do so, but everyone still has the choice to opt out. However, as someone who has the heart of a total stranger beating inside me, I want to convince you not to. 

The opportunity to save a life doesn’t occur often but advances in medical science mean that everyone has the chance to

You don’t need your organs after you die but there are people who desperately do. The opportunity to save a life doesn’t occur often but advances in medical science mean that everyone has the chance to. One person can save around 9 lives through organ donation and improve the lives of over 50 people through cell and tissue donation. You’re not limited by age or gender– I received my heart from a middle aged man – or race. In fact, BAME organs are the least commonly donated meaning that members of minority groups are less likely to receive well-matched organs and on average, spend more time waiting on the transplant list. 

Most importantly, whether you’ve decided to remain on the organ donation list and donate your organs after your death, or have opted out and decided against it, your family and loved ones always have the final say. So, talk to them. Tell them of your wishes. If you want to pass your organs on to give somebody else the chance to live, let your family know so that if the worst was to happen, they’d know what you wanted. 

My life was saved by a stranger. Someone I never met.

My life was saved by a stranger. Someone I never met. Thousands of people in the UK, from tiny babies to fully grown adults, are waiting for their life-saving transplants just like I  once was. Perhaps, one day, hopefully a long time from now, you may have the chance to be the one that saves them.  Don’t opt out. 

Last modified: 23rd March 2020

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