Hundreds of patients had organ transplants during coronavirus pandemic

Hundreds of people have been given the gift of life, despite the pandemic putting a strain on the NHS.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 4:55 am

A new report published today by NHS Blood and Transplant shows 324 people in the North West had their lives saved by an organ transplant in 12 months.

In total, 3,391 people in the UK received an organ thanks to 1,180 people donating after death.

The Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Annual Activity Report 2020/21 shows that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, levels were sustained at 75 per cent of normal deceased donation activity and around 80 per cent of normal transplant activity across the UK.

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Carl Flynn in hospital

The number of patients on the active waiting list for a transplant in the North West fell to 594 at the end of March.

However, this does not fully reflect the number of people who need an organ transplant, as some patients were removed from the list or programmes were closed at the peak of the pandemic, as it was riskier to carry out transplants and NHS resources were under extra pressure.

John Forsythe, medical director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This past year has been completely unprecedented in the history of the NHS, as well as in our wider society. So, the fact that 324 people in the North West received an organ transplant is amazing.

“Each one of us in the wider clinical team of donation and transplant, across the UK, are immensely proud of the work to keep organ donation and transplants happening in the most challenging circumstances. But our commitment is nothing compared with donors and their families – the gift of life has been donated by 171 people in the North West in the midst of a tragedy made even more difficult by Covid restrictions.

Carl Flynn

“However incredible this achievement, we mustn’t forget that there are still thousands of people in need of life-saving organ transplants and we are doing our utmost to work with clinical teams and donor families to try and close the gap between those receiving a transplant and those still waiting.”

Carl Flynn had a heart transplant in November.

He had a heart attack at the age of 25 and was told he was lucky to survive. His heart was failing and continued to deteriorate for a year.

Carl had a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) fitted and had ups and downs for two years, before an infection led to him needing an urgent transplant. Carl, now 32, said: “I got a call in the middle of the night, everything took longer with Covid and extra tests, but I felt safe and everything went well. A couple of weeks later I was home.

“It was my birthday, it was the most amazing present I will ever receive. It’s still early days but I feel amazing, it’s as though I’m myself again. I can swim, I’m back at the gym and I’m starting training for the Transplant Games and I’m looking at starting my own business.

“I think about my donor family every day, it’s an invaluable gift, you can’t get anything better.

“Obviously, it must have been a lot more difficult with Covid, I don’t know if they were able to be with their loved one and that’s awful. I don’t know how to say thank you. I can’t thank my donor and their family enough for their kindness.

“It’s important to make sure your whole family knows where you stand and what your wishes are on donation.”

A change in the law means it will be assumed that people want to be a donor after death unless they register otherwise.

The number of people registering to become a donor after death rose and opt-in registrations now stand at 26.7m – with just 2m people opting out.

Families still have to provide consent for the transplant and this was given in 69 per cent of cases.

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