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Happy Heart Birthday – Share Your Decision!

By  13th September 2015

Hello Everyone,

It was 5 years ago today that I received my heart transplant. The twelve hour operation was tough, as was the long period of recovery after. But I fought through and here I am today. As I’m sure you have heard, the past week has been National Transplant Week. As the recipient of two organ transplants, this is a very important week to me. It was a week to think of all of the incredible donors, and their families, who have saved so many lives and to encourage people to make and share their decision on organ donation.

I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to donate your organs. You don’t need them when you’re gone! Give them to someone who really needs them. People often dream of the moment that they can be the hero. The moment they arrive,  just as it’s almost too late, and save the day. Unfortunately, this moment may never come. That is unless you decide to donate your organs. You really could become someones knight in shining armour.

I am forever grateful to my donor and their family. Despite the tragedy of their loves ones death, they agreed for their organs to be used, meaning that I was not only given a new Heart, but a brand new chance at life. I pray for my donor, I thank them and hope now that they rest in peace.

Often it is hard to make such a huge decision as to whether you would like to sign the donor register. This may be due to your faith, beliefs or any misconceptions you may have. Maybe this piece of writing may help you make your decision. It is a speech I wrote for my English GCSE coursework:

The Gift of Life: A Gift Seldom Given

Death.

Donation.

Dying.

Everyday, hundreds of people die due to organ failure.  However, death is not always inevitable…

Pioneering research in the late 20th century has enabled us to replace unhealthy organs with new, life-saving ones. But, in order to carry out these groundbreaking operations, we need healthy organs to use. This is where YOU come in… 

   

Did you know that you can save up to 8 lives by donating your organs after your death, and enhance up to 50 lives by donating your tissue and your eyes? By simply signing the organ donor register, YOU can be a hero. Around 100 million in the world people are already on the organ donor register.

 So, why is there still a shortage of organs? 

There are plenty of reasons why people chose to donate their organs: a sense of pride, the thought of saving a life or simply to experience the “feel good factor” that comes with signing the register. However, surprisingly, more people decide against donating their organs than those who do. This is due to many reasons: 

Religion and race are large contributing factors. Belonging to a certain cultural or religious group can prevent you from signing the organ donor register. For example Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the blood of one person should never enter another person. Consequently, followers of this religion are forbidden to go on the donor register or to receive an organ themselves. Although when in desperate need of an organ, I’m sure many Jehovah’s Witnesses would renounce their faith and choose to live. This is one of the very few faiths that bans donation. 

Most religions, including Catholicism, Islam and all Protestant faiths do not forbid their followers from donating organs. This includes faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism, who consider donating an organ a compassionate and noble thing to do. Because Judaism believes that after a person has died, their body should be buried as quickly as possible, many people following this faith assume that they cannot become a donor, as removing the organs after death would delay burial.  

Representatives of all kinds of Jewish faiths have agreed that if the reason for delayed burial is to remove organs for transplantation, it is completely acceptable. If you are a strong believer in religion, you can still be faithful and donate your organs as most religions allow you to do so. In fact, many faiths would agree that donating organs is a highly commendable and honourable decision. 

YOU COULD SAVE LIVES!

Another myth that is believed and feared by  many , is that Doctors and other medical staff will offer compromised care to members of the organ donor register. It is though that Ii someone who has agreed to donate their organs suddenly finds themselves in a life-threatening predicament, doctors and other health professionals will not do their utmost to bring the person back to health, so that their organs can be taken and used.  However, Doctors and nurses responsible for our care and are obliged to work to save a life until it is no longer possible. 

Doctors, at the start of their career, are made to swear the Hippocratic Oath, stating that they will “Do no harm”, and always do their absolute best to preserve life throughout their profession. If this does not reassure you, what will?

Some people also assume that their body will not be handled with care if and when their organs are removed for transplantation.  Human life is extremely precious, before and after death. Therefore, after your organs have been removed, your body will be made to look exactly as it did before you passed away, and you and your organs will be treated with caution, sensitivity and respect. Donating your organs is easier than ever, and won’t make a difference to how you are treated before and even after death.  

A common misconception is that one must be over, or under a certain age to donate their organs . People waiting for a transplant range from tiny babies and teenagers to fully grown adults, the elderly and all in between. When finding a match for organ transplants, the smaller the age gap between the donor and receiver of the organ, the better. 

Any age is the right age to sign up to the organ donor register. No one is to young or too old, and children under the age of 18 are still able to donate, all they have to do is alert their parents of their  wishes. Donating your organs is something which should come as second nature, and can be done by anyone. Don’t delay, sign up today because if the worst situation were to happen, you could save someone your age. Don’t wait until you are old, because it may be too late. 

This brings me onto another reason that often makes people reluctant to join the organ donor register. The impression that the majority of people waiting for transplants are the elderly or coming towards the end of their natural lives. This very often deters potential donors. In all honesty, there are almost as many children as adults on the transplant list.

Your health is another factor that little effects your decision to donate your organs. Few conditions actually prevent peoples organs being used. If you are in doubt, sign up anyway, as health professionals can decide after your death whether your organs are healthy enough to be used for transplantation.

But what about the people on the receiving end of organs transplants? 

People are only put on the transplant waiting list if it is believed that if they receive an organ, they will have a good quality of life afterwards. Your donated organs will go to very deserving and sick people, people who often have not yet had a fair opportunity to live their life without illness.

There is a serious organ shortage for everyone waiting on the list, but especially for Black, African and Asian people because they are more prone to diseases that will effect their heart, kidneys and other organs. Certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minorities so Minority donors are urgently needed because matching blood type os needed of transplantation. If we all encourage each other to sign up to the organ donor register we could decrease the number of people dying on the list due to their colour or race. It couldn’t be easier to save them.  

There is one problem which contributes hugely to the massive shortage of organs. If a person joins the organ donor register, giving permission for their healthy organs to be used for transplantation, when they die, their families’ ultimate decision over-rides theirs. This means that if the family do not want their loved-ones’ organs to be used, then the medical professionals will not be able to use them (despite the deceased person’s wishes). Between 2011 and 2012, a total of 125 families ignored the wishes of their loved one and refused to allow their organs to be used.

THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE! 

When someone signs up to the organ donor register, and gives permission for their organs to be used for transplantation, this should be their final decision, even if their family disagrees. When your loved one has died, the last thing you want to think about is whether their organs should be reused, or about the possibility of saving someone else. 

I do not think that family members of the recently deceased should be deemed emotionally fit to make this vital decision, as they are probably too stricken with grief to think about the wonderful consequences donating could have.* Another thought may be : ’why should someone else deserve to live when my loved one has to die?’ Truly, by agreeing to the donation of your loved one’s organs, they will be living on and creating a new life for someone who really needs it. 

You may ask, what gives me the authority to speak to you about such a sensitive topic? Why must I persuade you? Well, as a double transplant recipient, I do believe that I have a unique perspective on the situation. In 2010, I was blessed with a new heart after suffering a heart condition since I was born, and then heart failure after major surgery went wrong. Later in 2012, I was the recipient of a kidney transplant from my Mother. In all honesty, if I hadn’t had those life saving transplants, I wouldn’t be here today. I would be dead. Not only this, but my family would have has to deal with the loss, as many families have to do everyday because there aren’t enough organs to go around. If that wonderful family who were suffering immensely had not put others before themselves and agreed for their sons organs to be used, I would not be talking to you today. I’m beyond lucky. However, some weren’t as lucky as me, and while waiting for my new heart, many children died as a suitable organ was never found for them in time. 

I’m not asking you to give up and organ now. You must live your life first. But when you have done that, you have the amazing chance to let someone else live theirs!

Altogether there are 7,410 people on the UK transplant waiting list. Last year only 3,068 transplants were carried out. This is terrible. Is it too much to ask that out of 65 million people who are now living in the UK, a few thousand more agree to the use of their organs when they are dead, and will not need them anymore? If a person if on the waiting too long, there is a risk of them being removed from it altogether and possibly even dying before they have even had the chance to live again. 1000 people in the UK die each year. There are no more excuses, no matter what your age, race or religion, you can still donate. You should still donate. You must still donate!

Jesus once said, “treat others how you would like to be treated,”. If you needed an organ, would you take it? I certainly would, and that’s why I have signed my name on the all important organ donor register. Crucially I have made sure my family know I want to donate my organs, and that I carry around a plastic card that will inform everyone of my wishes.

90% of people agree with donating their organs. So, why are only 30% of people actually doing it? Saving lives should be second nature to all of us. You are currently more likely to need a transplant than to be a donor. Let’s change these statistics. 

The human race is precious and we have been given a chance to preserve it, why aren’t we doing it? There is someone out there who is waiting for that all important phone call, informing them they may have a second chance at life. You could be the one that provides them with this chance. Is there a better feeling than knowing you can save or impact more that one life? You could be the reason that a sick, vulnerable and helpless person receives that life-saving phone call, telling them they’ve been saved. 

Do it, do it now, sign your name on the register and become a hero today. 

*I wrote this speech as my English coursework, so some of the opinions I present may be exaggerated for dramatic purposes.

 CLICK HERE TO BE AN ORGAN DONOR AND GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE!

 I hope that this has helped you to decide. Thank you so much. 

Cecilia-Joy

To read the article I wrote for the Independent Newspaper online Click here!

To donate to my JustGiving page Click here!

To check out my YouTube channel Click here!

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