Tuesday, March 11, 2008

GIFT OF LIFE: Plight of patients waiting for new organs

This story is typical of the struggles a lung transplant patient must go through while waiting for their transplant. I can certainly relate to this and I remember all too well the difficulties I had in performing simple tasks such as tying my shoes or trying to climb a set of stairs.

From The Sheffield Star in the UK:
Around 250 people in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire are waiting for an organ transplant to transform their lives. To launch a regular feature as part of The Star's Gift of Life campaign, Kate Lahive speaks to one woman on the waiting list.

BRAVE Helen Miller finds every day a struggle as she waits for her chance of a life-saving transplant.

The 38-year-old has spent almost a year on the waiting list for a new lung or set of lungs and her health is steadily, getting worse and affecting all aspects of her every day life.

The mum-of-two says the day of her operation can't come soon enough because she can't work, is reliant on oxygen for 24 hours a day and struggles to climb the stairs of her South Anston home.

Just cleaning her teeth leaves her struggling for breath and she feels too exhausted to even raise her arms to dry her hair or put on her make-up.

But Helen, a witty and intelligent woman, refuses to feel sorry for herself and has agreed to contribute a weekly diary about her experience to support The Star's Gift of Life campaign.

She said: "I think people are interested in what it's like for people waiting for a transplant, and if it helps to raise public awareness about organ donation I hope it will make a difference."

Helen had an auto-immune disease as a teenager and developed emphysema, a serious lung disease five years ago.

Gradually her health has become steadily worse as her lungs have deteriorated, until doctors said she needed to join the waiting list for a transplant.

Helen was a busy working mum but her illness has had a dramatic impact on her life. Just leaving the house is far from easy and Helen's mum Pat Eaton, 57, cares for her in the daytime.

She said: "I was very poorly on Sunday and I couldn't get out of bed. On Monday I was sat on the settee.

"On Tuesday I went to see my friends where I worked and I went to Morrison's and on Wednesday I stayed in and spent a bit of time on the computer. On Thursday I saw my friends again."

Helen has to have enough oxygen with her in a portable cylinder and can only be away from home for a few hours at a time because the supply is limited and needs to be topped up.

And then there are the medical appointments to schedule in. On Friday Helen had an appointment with a dietician because her weight has fallen. She now finds it too exhausting to chew, swallow and breathe at the same time so can only eating soft food such as soup.

"Because of the effort involved in breathing and eating you don't feel like eating.I've lost weight but I need to keep my weight up as you need to be at a certain weight to be able to have transplant," she explained.

She's now been given shakes and powders to add calories and nutrients to her diet and hopes this will prevent any further weight loss.

After her appointment Helen had to go home to get more portable oxygen and then she spent three hours at the Northern General Hospital, having treatment to protect her bones from thinning.

It is clearly a tough time for Helen and her family - but she is determinedly optimistic and holds on to the firm belief she will be one of the lucky people who gets a transplant.

"I can't afford to feel sorry for myself," she said. "There are some days when I don't feel positive but I know have to be strong, stay positive and fight on."

Across the UK as many as 8,000 people are waiting for organ transplant but there are not enough donor organs available. Although 3,000 people had organ transplants last year, 1,000 people died while on the waiting list. The Star is aiming to persuade 25,000 readers to sign on to the NHS Organ Donor Register by August, when the 31st Westfield Health British Transplant Games take place in Sheffield.

The Games will bring together hundreds of people who've received organ transplant to celebrate the success of the programme, promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage more people to join the register.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network

Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

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