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Trust urges Londoners to discuss organ donation

Posted on Wednesday 10 January 2018

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is appealing to Londoners to talk to their friends and relatives about organ donation, as new figures show less than half of people have ever talked about it.

The Trust, which carries out a fifth of all organ transplants in London – almost 2,500 over the last ten years, is supporting the new Words Save Lives campaign which has been launched by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) this week.

The campaign encourages people to talk more openly about organ donation so their friends and relatives are aware of their wishes. NHSBT figures have found that while more than 80% of people support organ donation, only 49% have ever talked about it. 

One in five people on the national transplant waiting list live in London and hundreds of transplants are being missed in the capital every year because families do not know what their relative wanted.

The campaign aims to increase the number of donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in particular. Figures show that out of the 1,336 people currently awaiting lifesaving transplants in London, almost two thirds (811), are black and Asian.  Organs from people from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a close match and give the best chance of a positive outcome.

Gemma Gayle, 30, from Wandsworth, received a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant at Guy’s Hospital last year, after her kidneys failed. She recently got married, and is enjoying a new lease of life.

Gemma says: “The wait on the transplant list is nerve wracking because you never know when the phone rings if it will be that call from the hospital telling you a transplant is available.

“Receiving a transplant is an amazing gift and I am so grateful to my donor for allowing me this second opportunity to live a relatively normal life. The fact that my transplant came from someone else’s loss is something that is never far away from my thoughts. I didn’t know them, but I will carry a part of them for the rest of my life and for every milestone I manage to reach I will always be eternally grateful.”

Marlies Ostermann, clinical lead in organ donation at the Trust, says: “Over the last ten years, nearly 800 people in London have died waiting for a suitable donor organ to become available because families refused to donate as they didn’t know what their relative wanted.

“It’s crucial for people who want to donate to tell their families. That way, if the worst should happen, it will make the decision to donate your organs much easier for your family if they know that is what you want. We need their consent for donation to go ahead, even if you have signed the Organ Donor Register. 

“Many people think that things like age, religion or medical history will prevent them from becoming a donor. This is not the case. Almost anyone can donate provided they die in the right circumstances in hospital. Having that all-important conversation with friends and relatives could make all the difference to patients like Gemma.

“Knowing that their loved one has given the gift of life can bring enormous comfort to families of organ donors.”

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHSBT, says:  “We are really grateful for Guy’s and St Thomas’ support. Almost 2,500 people have had a second chance at life thanks to transplants they received at Guy’s and St Thomas’. This was only possible thanks to those who put other people first and agreed to organ donation at the most distressing time in their life. 

“Talk to your family today, let them know you want to be an organ donor and prove that words really do save lives. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference.”

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