Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Organ Donation

This recent BBC News article stated:

"Only 20% of the population - or 13 million - are on the (organ donation) register, despite the fact that surveys showed that as many as 70% of people wanted to donate their organs after death. "

And I think it is about time that this was addressed - by making it automatic unless the person has opted-out. I would even go along with the Spanish system where the family can still say no when the time comes.

So often the family do not think about organ donation at the time of their sad loss, whilst the medical profession find it a difficult topic to raise and unfortunately (this is NOT meant to be a dig, but a statement of fact) do not always know the procedure.

Richard's Mum went into hospital two years ago for a last ditch operation. Because of her heart problems, it was high risk and in the end it was not possible to proceed with it. Yvonne went into the Intensive Care Department and sadly died a few days later, with all her family around her. The staff in the IC Department were superb throughout her time there, and the 'Family room' that was made available to us during those days (with basic kitchen facilities and sofa beds) was invaluable.

It was not until we actually got up to leave her bedside that last time, that we belatedly thought of organ donation - something she was always a supporter of. The IC staff sensitively explained that it was not really an option, firstly because of her health/age but also because she had already died. This topic needs to be addressed before the machines are actually turned off, etc.

However, unbeknown to us, the staff did phone through to the Donation Coordinator to double check and astonishingly came back and said donation was still an option! Not only were there research projects desperate for brain tissue and bones from elderly people (for alzheimers and osteoporosis respectively) but also a need for corneas which can still be successfully 'harvested' for some time after death. Even if you do not have absolutely perfect sight, your corneas can be used to provide improved sight for people who are virtually blind.

I cannot describe how delighted we all were when, a few weeks later, we received a letter telling us that Yvonne's corneas had been successfully transplanted - TWO people were now seeing better. Her death was not totally a waste - and this 'positive' helped us all to cope, especially LeeLee and Nic.

When my Mum died three months later, donation was not thought of or mentioned - it happened suddenly, and the family were not there unfortunately. I will always regret that the question was not asked - the girls are so comforted by the thought of their Grandma 'living on' in two people, that I wish the same had been possible for their Nana.

Please, please carry a donor card AND talk to your nearest and dearest so they know your wishes. Often close relatives say 'no' to donation when the time comes, because they do not feel comfortable with the concept themselves.


Death is a very sad time, but it does have its funny moments. We were all with Yvonne when the machines were switched off. The IC staff had discretely turned the trace screens around at an angle so we could not see as they each in turn 'flatlined', and were monitoring the life signs from a remote desk. However Nic, ever an inquisitive young child, had realised what the screens were representing, and gave us a running commentary in a stage whisper ........

" One has gone!"

" Now another!"

" That's it - all five are flat."

We all laughed through our tears, and knew that Yvonne would have appreciated it - her humour was always in tune with ours! Morbid and warped some might say!

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