Urgent appeal for organ donors
Twelve patients in Northern Ireland are waiting for new hearts and lungs while seven need lifesaving liver operations.
Most of the patients require a kidney, with 300 on the waiting list, and 750 undergoing dialysis in hospitals and at home.
Now health experts and those who have had transplants are calling for more donors in the run-up to Christmas.
Eleanor Donaghy, Donor Transplant Co-ordinator, said that the UK has one of the lowest donation rates in Europe, with the waiting list in March at an all-time high and 1,000 patients dying each year over the lack of a transplant.
Ms Donaghy said that the number of people in Northern Ireland who refuse permission when approached for a donation after the death of a family member is 43%, well below the UK average.
The number of people on the province’s register is 23%, making it the third lowest region in the UK.
Last night, the parents of Northern Ireland’s youngest-ever heart transplant patient, Coleraine boy Jack Atkinson, and other patients whose lives have been saved by transplants, reinforced the plea for more organ donors.
Meanwhile, David Robinson, chairman and co-founder of the Northern Ireland Transplant Association, spoke about a heart transplant he underwent in January 1991 at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, after suffering no fewer than nine heart attacks.
“I’m now 75 and it has made such a difference to my life,” said David, who is from Belfast. “I continue to walk and cycle and get as much exercise as possible to keep my heart healthy — it came from a 17-year-old donor who died and carried the card. Now, I have two wonderful grandchildren I would never have seen.
“Today, there are almost 100 people in Northern Ireland with new hearts and the same number with new livers, and over 2,000 kidney transplants have been carried out in the Belfast City Hospital. So many lives have been saved and, with more donors, the potential is limitless.”
Gordon Cave, who is the chairman of the Royal Victoria Hospital Liver Support Group, received a new liver at London’s King’s College Hospital in October 1997.
Without the operation he would have had no chance of survival.
Belfast man Billy Thompson (66), executive member of the NI Kidney Research Fund, received a kidney 27 years ago from a live donor, his brother David, now 63.
“It has made such a difference to my life,” said Billy.
And Northern Ireland’s longest-surviving kidney transplant patient Bob Arnott (73), chairman of the NI Kidney Research Fund, received his kidney in January 1971.
“I believe I’m the fifth longest survivor in the UK and 16th in the world,” said Bob.
Donors can register on 0845 6060400 or they can do it online at UK Transplant.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves