Health staff face organ donor call

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MORE than a third of NHS Lothian’s 23,000 employees are not on the organ donor register, it emerged today.

An NHS survey highlighted the number with more than half revealing they were not signed up because they had “never got around to it”.

A new campaign is now being launched which will see doctors, nurses and behind-the-scenes staff at hospitals reliving personal experiences of organ transplants to urge colleagues to join the register.

The drive will see posters, newsletters and the NHS magazine used to spread the message.

Consultant vascular surgeon Paul Burns was compelled to join the campaign after his mother’s organs transformed the lives of two people nine years ago.

The father-of-six had returned from a hillwalking trip with his father to discover his mother unconscious in her bed.

She was rushed to the Western General Hospital but later died from what medics discovered was a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage – a rare type of stroke.

“We’d had numerous 
dinner-table conversations about organ donation so we asked the nursing staff whether organ donation would be possible,” he said. “Once we discussed this with the transplant co-ordinator, my mother was able to donate her kidneys and liver.

“We subsequently received two letters from the kidney recipients and information about the liver recipient.”

The kidney recipients told how they were no longer “tied to dialysis” three times a week and were “eternally grateful” for the transplant that changed their lives.

Another letter, Mr Burns said, had “brought a lump to his throat” when he discovered his mother’s liver had gone to a child who would have otherwise died within hours.

Nearly half of Lothian’s population – estimated at nearly 849,000 – is on the organ donor register, with 22,663 having signed up in the last year.

Grant McKail, a perioperative practitioner at the Western General Hospital, has been involved in many organ retrievals.

But his first exposure to organ transplants was when his uncle suffered a massive stroke in 2001 and the family was told he would not recover.

“For lots of people the biggest issue in signing up is that people don’t want to think about their own mortality,” he said. “They may not understand all the processes and checks carried out. I also think people believe they will not be given all treatments and interventions if they are on the register but that’s just not the case.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com