NHS Blood and Transplant calls on families in Kent to talk about organ donation over the festive season

As Christmas approaches NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on families in Kent to talk about organ donation and register their decision to help save lives.With some families hoping to get together for Christmas for the first time since the pandemic began, NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to take a moment during the celebrations to talk about their organ donation decision and to leave their family members certain of what they want to happen.

There are currently 104* patients awaiting the life-saving gift of an organ transplant in Kent and many of their lives could be saved or significantly improved if a donor is found. Yet every day across the UK someone dies in need of an organ transplant.

 Alisha Gokani, 23, from Sidcup  is spending her 4th Christmas waiting on the organ donation list for a kidney transplant.

Alisha says “In 2005, at just 7 years old I was told I had a rare condition which meant that my kidneys would fail before I reach my teenage years. When the time came that I began to get seriously ill my mum was kind enough to donate one of her kidneys without a second thought, this meant I was saved from being on dialysis and given the opportunity to carry on living a normal life. However, it wasn’t as easy as we thought, and even with treatments and attempts of preventions I kept getting infections and eventually rejected this kidney in August 2017 at age 19.   “Since then, I have been on dialysis, as a young adult attempting to get a degree, this hasn’t been the easiest. I’ve had to completely rearrange my life, taking time away from university initially, but thankfully I was able to return. Every day is a struggle as I’m faced with complete exhaustion from having treatment 4 times a week alongside full-time education. Dialysis has been the only way to keep me as healthy as possible whilst I painfully wait for the call. I have also been told that a living donor from the same ethnicity as me (Indian) would be the best possible match. As I have had a transplant before my body has created a lot of antibodies which provides extra challenges so I could be waiting a very long time. If a live donor came forward my antibodies can be removed to match the donors just before surgery, everything could be planned and controlled for the best possible outcome.

“Waiting for a kidney and being on dialysis during the pandemic has also thrown in extra complications making life waiting for a transplant so much harder. Initially I was shielding in a flat on my own away from family and friends, I attended university online and had to be so very careful every time I left the house for dialysis. As restrictions eased, I was however able to return to university and I also completed my university placement year working at one of the best global tech companies in the world!

“As I face my 4th Christmas waiting for a transplant, I try to make the best of things, I am incredibly excited to be able to see my family again this year and I have arranged for dialysis to take place near home so I can spend some extra time there but across Christmas can I please ask people to discuss their organ donation wishes with their family. That could be by joining the register to donate their organs after they die or maybe looking to see if Living donation is something they could consider. Living donation is a big ask and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but as a little Christmas present this year, I am kindly asking people to read more about organ donation, talk to their family and discuss their wishes.

“There are thousands of people like me hoping for a Christmas miracle, by simply signing up and talking about your wishes with your family you could save multiple lives.”

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHSBT, says: “Wherever and however people in Kent plan to spend this Christmas, we hope that  everyone will be able to enjoy the festivities and spend some much needed time with family and friends.

“For many thousands of people across the country, including 46 people in Kent who have had transplants this year**, the only reason that they are able to enjoy a happy and healthy Christmas is thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family who so selflessly chose to give the gift of life. However, there are still thousands of people who are still desperately hoping and waiting for the transplant that will transform their life.

“Please take a moment this Christmas to let your family know your organ donation decision. Those conversations could help save the lives of people currently spending their Christmas waiting for a transplant.”

Even though the law around organ donation has now moved to an opt out system across England, Wales, and Scotland, many are still not aware that families will still always be consulted before organ donation goes ahead.

While families are more likely, and find it easier, to support donation when they already know it is what their loved one wanted, only 42% of the UK population have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and just 37% say that they have shared their organ donation decision with their family.

Anthony Clarkson adds, “We know that for many thousands of people across the UK, including 104 people in Kent, the greatest gift they could receive this year will be a phone call telling them that a donor has been found for them. Please let your family know your organ donation decision and leave them certain of your decision”.

For more information, or to register your organ donation decision, please visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.