Happy new week!
The sun continues to shine here, I hope that it is shining with you too? The word count continues to grow and I am ever hopeful that I will hit my 30 day target of 50,000+ words. Being in Dorset again over the weekend gave me a renewed motivation, with big blue skies and blustery runs along the coast path. If only being on a windswept hill-top looking out to sea was as romantic as the BBC portrayed it in the excellent Poldark remake! How come Demelza’s hair didn’t look like a bird’s nest every time she walked along that hill-top coast path?! And where’s my Ross Poldark??! (‘Wrong county’ I hear you cry, but as we head off to Cornwall very soon I may get lucky! … oh the nonsense the poor Hub must put up with!)
Anyway, a recent story in the media caught my eye and I wanted to blog about this last week, but time got the better of me. I wanted to give the topic proper attention as it’s something I feel very strongly about. The story related to Teddy Houlston the UK’s youngest ever organ donor. Teddy lived for less than 2 hours and just moments after his death, his kidneys were donated to an adult in Leeds. The decision to donate organs is a tough one for some people – both on a moral and religious level. As a selfish teenager I remember being quite clear with my parents that I did NOT want to be an organ donor, when I died I wanted ALL of me to be buried and intact. Thinking back on it now I cringe with embarrassment. But then what do we know as teens – back in the 80’s/early 90’s we didn’t have the level of media exposure we have today, only extreme medical cases ever made it on to the news and with limited channels, we found other things to do, other things to worry about in our own lives. My recollection is that as a fourteen year old, I was less ‘world-aware’ than my daughter is now at the same age. Whether that’s wholly a good thing is a topic for another post. But like so many things until you are directly affected, things like organ donation, death, major illness etc don’t really mean anything to you. But I cannot stress enough the importance of organ donation and still today I meet many people who have no real solid reason why they shouldn’t be an organ donor upon their own death. Only that they ‘don’t like the idea of it’ that a ‘stranger will be living with their body parts’…
I signed the Organ Donor Register in 1994, as a student in Plymouth. There was a stand at one of our university events and as it turned out, one of the guys on our course was an organ recipient. Until then many of us hadn’t really thought about the donation process and it brought home the realities of making tough decisions in the face of tremendous grief in order to save another person’s life.
In 2001, just 5 weeks after the birth of our first-born – our beautiful daughter – my niece, was taken very ill, very quickly. At only 21 months old, she suffered the usual round of childhood illnesses and this initially seemed nothing out of the ordinary to the point that her GP thought it might be severe tonsillitis. Quickly, though, things changed and within 24 hours she was in ICU in Guy’s Hospital London, diagnosed with acute Type 1 Diabetes and subsequently diabetic ketoacidosis. Within 48 hours her parents faced the same agonising news that little Teddy’s parents did – she wasn’t going to survive and like Teddy’s parents, they opted to donate whatever organs were needed. The process was swift and heartbreaking, but throughout the family was supported by fantastic NHS staff who talked them through each of the stages. These people are A-MAZ-ING. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling and yet heartbreaking job – in my view they are heroes. But not nearly as big heroes as the patients, partners and families all over the country who make the decision every day to donate organs.
From the trauma of the death of a toddler came the news via the Transplant team, that her liver had been successfully transplanted to a little boy in the Midlands and that this had literally been a life or death situation for him; Regular updates ensured that his progress was reported back to the family.
As parents, having experienced what we have, we are keen to ensure that our children understand the importance of organ donation, that they understand our wishes to be donors and as a result we are encouraging them to think about the importance of making the decision for themselves in the future.
I hope, if you haven’t registered that you are able to give some thought to the reasons why. If you really can’t think of any, please register. You could save someone’s life. It really is the greatest gift and for that I thank you!
For more information registering to be an organ donor: www.organdonation.nhs.uk