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‘The gift of life is the greatest gift of all’: Let’s talk about organ donation for Organ Donation Week 2018

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 September 2018

The new pink organ donor card. Photo: NHS Blood and Transplant

The new pink organ donor card. Photo: NHS Blood and Transplant

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Doctors, nurses and families across east London are urging people to talk about organ donation as part of UK Organ Donation Week.

Newly released statistics from NHS Blood and Transplant reveal there are 291,856 registered organ donors across the east London borough’s of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets – but last year just 110 patients in the area received organ transplants.

And tragically, in the last five years 53 people across those five boroughs have died while waiting on the organ donor register.

Nationally, around three people die a day in need of an organ.

Only a small percentage of people die in circumstances where they can donate, so every donor is precious.

Tom Wilson donated his organs following his tragic death in December 2015Tom Wilson donated his organs following his tragic death in December 2015

During Organ Donation Week, the NHS is urging families to talk about donation with the message – “Words Save Lives”.

Councils and organisations around the country are lighting prominent buildings pink, which is the colour of the modern donor card, in support of the country’s organ donation campaign.

Tom Wilson, a Coopers’ Company and Coborn student from Hornchurch, died aged 22 after being accidentally hit on the head with a hockey stick while taking part in a training session for Old Loughtonians.

He had signed up to the Organ Donor Register when he was a fresher at Nottingham Trent University and his organs, skin and bone were all donated to save and improve the lives of several critically ill people.

Havering Hockey Club are holding the Wilson Memorial Fun Day at Campion School on September 16 in tribute to the latest Graham and Tom WilsonHavering Hockey Club are holding the Wilson Memorial Fun Day at Campion School on September 16 in tribute to the latest Graham and Tom Wilson

His mother, Lisa, has now become a London ambassador for organ donation and is working to raise awareness of issues around organ donation.

This year, she has been fortunate to meet the recipients of Tom’s heart, on Mother’s Day no less, and last month met a five-year-old who was given part of her son’s liver two years ago and is now about to start Year 1 at school.

She told the Recorder: “It was absolutely amazing to meet these people whose lives have been able to go on thanks to Tom.

“The gift of life is the greatest gift of all, and Pippa and I both love Tom so much for that decision he made when he was just 18 years old in his Fresher’s Week at university.”

When tragedy struck and Lisa was told Tom would not make it, she and her late husband Graham were contemplating donating his organs before they were informed Tom was already on the register.

Immediate family members do have the power to stop a person’s organs being donated, even if they are on the register, but as soon as the Wilsons heard Tom had put himself on the register, their minds were made up.

She added: “You hope it will never, ever happen to you, but it happened to us.

“Two and a half years on we’ve been so lucky to meet two of Tom’s recipients, and I’ve never regretted the decision we made that day.”

In London, 59pc of families agreed to donate their loved one’s organs for lifesaving transplants last year, compared to a UK average of 66pc.

This meant London had the lowest regional consent rate in England. The east of England had the highest consent at 72pc.

And for Lisa, open communication about a person’s intention to donate their organs is crucial.

She said: “It’s not something that comes up naturally around the dinner table, but it is so important to have that conversation while you can, so that you’re all on the same page and everyone knows what your wishes are.”

It is a message that is echoed by healthcare professionals across the capital.

Rachel Rowson, specialist nurse in organ donation covering London hospitals for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It’s tragic that so many people from London have died waiting for a transplant – what is shocking is that many of those lives could have been saved, had more families agreed to donate organs.

“People are dying every day because some families are not talking about donation.

“We don’t want people to die because of a fatal complacency that because you know you want to be an organ donor you presume your loved ones know it too.”

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