Wigan families are being urged to talk during Organ Donation Week as new figures show 23 borough people have died waiting for a transplant in the last five years.
Tragically, despite the fact more and more people are supporting donating their loved one’s organs, there is still an urgent need for extra names on the register.
NHS Blood and Transplant is urging more people in the area to tell their families that they want to save lives through organ donation.
Last year, 34 people in Wigan borough had their lives saved by a transplant, and a total of 254 across Greater Manchester.
Although the number of donors is increasing and the waiting lists are reducing, right now there are around 6,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant across the UK.
During Organ Donation Week, which starts today, the NHS is urging families to talk about donation with the message “Words Save Lives”. Councils and organisations around the country are lighting prominent buildings pink, which is the colour of the modern donor card, in support of the crusade.
Those backing the campaign include Darren Gibson who has been on the waiting list for almost seven years for a heart transplant. He suffers from a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy and his heart is currently beating with the help of a cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator (CRT-D).
In 2013 Darren had an operation to fit a left-ventricular assisted device (LVAD) as the pressures between his heart and lungs were too high at the time for a transplant.
Darren describes how the LVAD changed his life: “It was like I was awake for the first time in 10 years. It felt amazing.”
But he is still waiting for a heart and his time on the waiting list is approaching 2,500 days.
Darren said: “I have gone past that stage where every time the phone rings I answer in hope that it could be the hospital letting me know they have a heart. My family and I have learned to appreciate each and every moment because after seven years of waiting, the reality is this may never happen for me. All we can do is hope and pray.”
Dawn Lee, specialist nurse in organ donation team manager for NHS Blood and Transplant, who covers hospitals in Greater Manchester, said: “It’s tragic that so many people from Greater Manchester have died waiting for a transplant – what is shocking is that many of those lives could have been saved, had more families agreed to donate organs.
“People are dying every day because some families are not talking about donation. We all know that organ donation legislation will change to a deemed consent system in England and Scotland in future years but the harsh fact is people are dying right now waiting for an organ and it will still be important for people to know your decision.
“We don’t want people to die because of a fatal complacency that because you know you want to be an organ donor you presume your loved ones know it too. Please, let your family know your decision and ask them if they want to be donors. Don’t leave your family guessing what you would have wanted to happen.”
Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk