Organ Donation: The Lives it Saves

Our bodies are mostly made of water, oxygen and extra empty spaces.

We don’t usually think about the technical science behind why we are alive.

We have organs that never tire, skin that heals when it breaks and bones that supposedly protect all the important parts.

What would happen if our bodies just stopped working? Would you start to think about what goes on inside? Would you begin to question the power and strength of the human body?

If you could, would you save another life? What would you be willing to do to save that life?

Organ donation could be the answer to saving someone’s life.

There are currently over 6,000 people in the UK alone, who are waiting for an organ transplant.

The government are currently looking to change the way the country sees organ donation so, it seemed appropriate to find out more about the topic.

Organ donation gives someone else the chance to live when you die.

Anyone can donate their organs and tissue when they die despite age or medical conditions.

The most important thing is that when you decide that you want to be an organ donor, you must ensure you tell your family.

Once you die, before transplant surgery is carried out the doctors will discuss it with your family.

If your family didn’t know about your decision, they can over-ride your choice to donate.

There is also the other option of being a living donor.

This is where you can donate one of your kidneys or part of your liver to save someone’s life.

This can be a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Around, 5,000 people in the UK are still in need of a kidney transplant and hundreds die from waiting.

The Waiting List

When one or multiple organs have given up on you.

The waiting list becomes your second home.

An organ is not likely to be waiting for you when you need it, for this reason, you will be put automatically on the waiting list.

The waiting list is not like any other list.

You don’t get closer to the top depending on how long you have been waiting; there are many contributing factors.

It depends on severity of someone’s condition and whether or not someone is a good match, medically.

It can be a tedious wait with no end in sight.

The average waiting list for someone waiting for a kidney is 2 ½ to 3 years, this can obviously be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances. People who need a kidney transplant will have to be on dialysis while they wait for a donor.

If you are on the waiting list, staff at the transplant centre will need to contact you quickly.

Staff need to act fast at this point so that the transplant has the best chance of being successful.

The Process 

A organ transplant operation can take between 4 to 12 hours depending on which organ they are transplanting.

Pete Brown, Senior Lecturer for Operating Department Practice (ODP), has seen first hand the sheer velocity of organ transplants.

He said: “When I worked in theatres, the retrieval process from the donor itself can take a few hours but the actual process once the organs have been retrieved is generally pretty fast. From the theatre the organ will be packed in ice and transported immediately to wherever the recipient needs to get their organ.”

The National Organ Retrieval Services (NORS) teams have to perform a high quality surgery to ensure the recipient is getting the best quality organ possible.

Their job is highly technical as well as being quite emotionally challenging.

Pete said: “The first time I saw a retrieval process, it was not exactly one of the nicest processes to be a witness to. There were a lot of people who I used to work with who weren’t very keen on being a part of the retrieval process.”

Kathryn Binks, an ODP student, witnessed a retrieval of a heart from a 13-month-old girl.

She said: “I don’t think about it much as I am very pro organ donation. We don’t see the families as we just go into theatres. I don’t have any connections to younger children, so I was kind of able to separate the two.”

“I know other people from seeing it, depending on how the person has died, have a negative reaction to the retrieval process.

“If it was brain death, it is all very slow cause they have time to do everything but if it is circulatory death they have got to be quick and it is very much like butchering. That’s kind of there view of it and they don’t like that at all.”

Yasmine Daley, another ODP student, flew with the Newcastle retrieval team to Nottingham and witnessed a whole body retrieval of a 16-year-old boy.

She said: “Yeah it was sad that it was a 16 year old boy, who had still got his life ahead of him but knowing the little girl, who we thought was going to die that day on PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit), was actually in theatre having her chest opened while we were bringing the heart was quite nice to know that she was getting that extra chance of life.”

Lift at James Cook Hospital

Organ Donation in Middlesbrough 

It occurs all over the world, right under our noses. Even in Middlesbrough.

During the years 2017-2018, within the TS postcode area, 162 people had a successful transplant.

However, in those same years around 53 people were waiting for organ donations, in the TS postcode area. Currently, the most needed organ in Teesside is a kidney.

Organ donation happens all the time, even if you are not thinking about it. However, there are some who think of nothing else.

These are the nurses who work directly with donors and recipients; the students who witness surgery’s they never thought they would have to see; the people who have been on the waiting list for years and don’t see an end; those who have been blessed with extra time on this planet and even a relative proudly sharing a story of their donor child.

Organ donation is a huge part of these peoples lives, so why shouldn’t it be a part of ours.

When you die your organs have lived out their purpose, they have taken you as far as they could.

Now you have an opportunity to give someone else that purpose in life.

Sign up to be on the organ donation register today and you too can change someone’s life!

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