INTERNATIONAL ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS-UNITED KINGDOM
Source: Westmoreland Gazette
TODAY the Westmorland Gazette launches a major campaign to tackle the huge shortage of organ donors in the region.
Gift Of Life is designed to encourage as many people as possible to register to donate their organs.
Currently the lives of desperately-ill men, women and children across the area are being put at risk.
Only 19.5 per cent of people in the county are signed up to the register - nearly 10 per cent below the national average.
Doctors are urging Gazette readers to come forward as donors.
“It really is a matter of life or death,” said Dr Jason Cupitt, clinical lead for organ donation at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals – which has many South Lakeland patients.
“Three people die every day across the country because there are not enough donors.
"There’s a huge urgency because the longer that people wait for an organ there’s a chance that they will die.”
The Gazette’s campaign has the support of the NHS Blood and Transfusion Service, which co-ordinates transplants.
There are currently 17 people waiting for organ transplants in The Westmorland Gazette’s circulation area, which includes South Lakeland, Furness and Eden.
Last year doctors carried out 14 transplant operations, including two heart transplants, five kidney, two liver and five cornea transplants, on people who live in the area.
Average waiting times vary by organ but people can wait for up to two years for a lung transplant and more than three years for a kidney.
NHS Research has revealed that 97 per cent of people say they would accept an organ if they needed it - but just 68,068 people in the Gazette’s circulation area have registered to give away their organs if they should die.
Dr Cupitt said: “Once you have died you don’t need your organs anymore and they can be used to potentially save the lives of many other people.
“I get families that don’t want to give away the organs of their loved ones, but then weeks later regret their decision.
"Relatives who have allowed us to use their family member’s organs say it’s the most rewarding thing they have ever done.”
Almost all the body’s organs can be donated, including the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and parts of the bowels.
Tissue such as corneas, heart valves, skin and bone can also be donated.
When people sign up to the register they have the option of selecting all of their organs, or however few they want.
Transplant co-ordinators will always double check with the deceased’s family, even if they were on the register.
Dr Cupitt said there were no conclusive reasons for the low number of Cumbrians on the donor register, but said apathy towards organ donation was a huge problem nationally.
“It’s difficult to know why people don’t want to sign up in Cumbria,” he said.
“Some people might have religious reasons, but I think people are fearful of it because they don’t understand the process. Apathy is one of the biggest things, people just can’t be bothered and don’t get around to it.
“It is also a very British thing to avoid talking about death, but organ donation should be something that families are open about.”
Lee Alexander, the donor and transplant co-ordinator for many patients in the South Lakeland area, said that campaigns like Gift Of Life were vital to raise awareness of the organ register and to encourage people to sign up.
“Every time the issue is raised on GMTV or there is an advertising campaign, we see a very obvious surge in registration,” she said.
“Donation is the ultimate gift of life - you can’t do anything better for someone.”