Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hate the wait, make the time, let them know

Cancer waiting times have been in the news recently. So too has GP access. Waiting for healthcare seems so very wrong when the NHS has been designed to be been there for us from 1948 for every day of our lives.

Some 7,000 people are waiting for treatment on the NHS, but this time we can’t blame the funding deficit/workforce issues/service configuration or anything else that puts pressure on the NHS.

They are waiting because we are afraid.

NHS Blood and Transplant Public Behaviour Change Strategy 2014

On average, eight families in the United Kingdom today will be asked about donation of their loved-one’s organs after suffering the loss of a family member. Four of those families will have no idea how their loved felt about donation. Their loved one didn't put their name on the Organ Donation Register. They never spoke about donation, they didn't want to tempt fate, they didn't want to talk about death. And now it’s too late. These four families face this decision with no idea what to do. The burden is enormous, and they are bearing it at the most difficult time.

Emma is a WI member, and when discussing Organ Donation in her WI, she shared the story of her friend Samantha. Samantha's family suffered a sudden loss when her father passed away. Their world was in turmoil. But that day, they ended the wait for six people (including three children) who’d been waiting for organ and tissue transplants, because they’d overcome those barriers and discussed organ donation as a family in advance. Here Samantha describes what happened, in her own words:

Dad collapsed with a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage on the 17th November 2003. He was fit and healthy and we were in the gym when he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He never regained consciousness. He was kept on life support for two days before they did the brain stem tests to pronounce him brain dead on the 19th November. An adored Dad to my sister and I, he was still head over heels in love with my mum since they had met 25 years ago. He was 47 when he died.

I can't remember if it was before or after he was pronounced brain dead that they asked us about donating (patients must be kept 'alive' to keep the organs working before the transplant surgery takes place), but whilst he was still on life support we were asked if organ donation was something we had talked about and would we consider speaking to a transplant co-ordinator.

We knew it was something he wanted so we said yes to finding out more.

I don't remember it being more stressful [because we were asked]. Our world had already been so suddenly turned upside down that we just somehow accepted this I think. But knowing we could help some people was a comfort.

We met with Tracey, the coordinator. The first thing she asked was what was Dad like as a person and she was interested in who he was. I think we chatted for ages about him and Tracey was so empathetic throughout.

Once we had decided she told us how the recipients would be contacted, getting the call they had been waiting for, them getting ready to come to hospital etc and it we certainly felt a sense of excitement and hope for them - and we knew Dad would have felt the same. We had all talked about it as a family and all of us said it was something we would do if we could.

It does help knowing that six people were saved and are hopefully living happy, healthy lives ten years on. We did receive a thank you card (through Tracey) from one of the gentlemen which was amazing to read. We are immensely proud of Dad and for being part of something so significant.
Imagine if, instead of being afraid, we talked to our families, like Samantha’s Dad did. Imagine if, instead of only 57% of families saying yes to donation (as is currently the case), 80% of families said yes because they knew what to do, like Samantha's family did. The wait would finally be over for almost 1,500 people on the transplant waiting list. They’d get the organs they so desperately need.
If you want to be an organ donor, join the Register here and talk to your family today. Don’t leave it too late. The 7,000 people on the transplant waiting list have been waiting long enough.