IF you want to be an organ donor, it’s important not to keep it to yourself.
Everyday in the UK, three people die waiting on a transplant. That’s why it’s vitally important to continue to increase the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
By making your wishes known, you could quite literally give the gift of life to someone after your death. In Scotland, 41 per cent of people have already taken action to help those waiting by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register, but there is still a shortage of organs for transplant.
A new campaign has been launched to urge people to have a chat about organ donation with their loved ones. The seven words, ‘I’d like to be an organ donor’ can save up to seven lives and making the time to talk about organ donation can make all the difference.
Put simply, your generosity could give a new lease of life to the thousands of people waiting across the UK.
Every day, 47-year old Gill Hollis gives thanks to a person she has never met but whose selfless decision to join the NHS Organ Donor Register saved her life.
Gill received a left lung transplant in February 2004, after more than 15 years of deteriorating health made even taking a single breath almost impossible. She suffered three lung collapses within just six weeks in her early twenties, and as someone who had always been fit and healthy, having such severe health problems came as a huge shock.
Gill said, “I was young and lived a healthy lifestyle so it was extremely difficult to take in. I had just started my first job in London so ended up in hospital there. I underwent some fairly brutal surgery but nothing specific was diagnosed; essentially, I was patched up and sent on my way.
“It was only five years later after some more lung problems that I was told that I had the rare chronic lung disease LAM.
“At the time very little was known about the disease but with oestrogen thought to play a part, I was advised not to have children and was told that my prognosis was uncertain. There was no treatment or cure, and a lung transplant was not considered an option at that time.
“It was a devastating diagnosis. I was just 27 years old, had recently moved to Edinburgh to a new job which I loved and which involved a lot of transatlantic travel, and had just started seeing a boyfriend, Peter, who was later to become my husband. It was a time when I should have been planning a future but all of a sudden, I didn’t know whether I had a future.”
Over the next 15 years, Gill’s health got progressively worse and she grew increasingly breathless every year. One by one, she was forced to give up her favourite activities and with that, her whole world started to shrink.
She continued, “By summer 2003, I was on oxygen 24 hours a day, eating and sleeping were difficult and it would take me hours to shower and dress in the morning. It was almost impossible to keep positive.”
But that year Gill was finally given some hope when she was placed on the list for a lung transplant. And luckily, just eight months later, in February 2004, Gill got the call that would save her life.
Gill said, “I had had a false alarm four months previously, so I was hesitant to get my hopes up at first. It was all very surreal and extremely stressful but I knew that given how ill I was, this might be my last chance at survival.
“Within a few minutes of getting the call, there was an ambulance outside my flat in Edinburgh and I was taken straight to Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where the transplant took place. In just a few hours, my life had been completely transformed. The only way I can describe it is as an absolute miracle.
“I wouldn’t be here without the NHS Organ Donor Register and the young woman who made the selfless decision to sign up. And I also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the brave decision of her family to allow her to become a donor in what must have been their most difficult hour. So I would urge everyone to take that small bit of time to discuss with their family their wishes should the unthinkable happen.
“I honestly cannot put into words how much organ donation has meant to me. I am a participant in life again, rather than a frustrated spectator and for that, I will forever be thankful.”
To find out more about organ donation and to join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonationscotland.org or text LIFE to 61611.