More local donors give the gift of life

The number of people in Norfolk who have agreed to donate their organs after death has grown by 100% over the past year.

The news comes as a national report shows the organ donors are rising but at a slower rate than the number of patients who need them.

Transplant co-ordinator Marie Garside, who is based at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), has been in post since March this year and helps relatives make informed decisions about organ donation.

Marie, a former A&E emergency nurse practitioner, covers the NNUH and James Paget. She is employed by NHS Blood and Transplant and her post at NNUH was one of the first in the region.

In 2007/08 NNUH provided six donors but since April 2009, 16 donations have been made and despite the progress Marie believes that people do still have false preconceptions about organ donation.

“My role is to identify potential donors and to talk to the relatives, giving them all the information they need to make their own decisions. I do have a lot of contact with relatives before and after donation and my job is a great privilege, especially when you read the thank-you letters and see that the organs that have been donated have saved lives or changed them for the better.

The biggest myths about organ donation are that older people cannot donate organs and that religious faith is a barrier to donating organs. There is no age limit to donation, everyone is a potential donor and faith is not a barrier to donation. We assess each person individually and we have recently had patients in their 70s who have donated organs successfully. One of most important things that people need to do is to talk to their loved ones about their wishes if they have joined the organ donor register”, said Marie.

Nationally the number of people volunteering to join the register has grown by 6.5% in the last year, hitting the 16m mark for the first time, but this still accounts for only about a quarter of the population.

Only about a third of potential donors in fact become donors, with relatives' refusal being a key obstacle. In the last year, an extra 100 donor transplant co-ordinators have been appointed across the country, and new systems introduced to ensure potential donors are identified and relatives approached as death becomes the likely outcome.

The number of deceased donors increased by 11% this year, leading to an extra 174 extra transplants. Living donations also rose at a similar rate, with 104 extra transplants – primarily kidneys.

The government wants to see 25 million people on the Organ Donor Register by 2013, and the number of donations to have increased by 50%. In England, a major public awareness campaign aimed at boosting the numbers on the register is about to begin.

There are at present nearly 10,000 people needing an organ, a figure that is rising by about 8% each year. One of the key factors behind this increase is the increasing incidence of kidney failure in the UK – particularly in the over-50s and black and ethnic minority communities.

Of those on the list 1,000 will die while waiting, or are removed because they have become too ill to undergo a transplant.

Thursday 8th of October 2009 11:00:51 AM