Sandra Dick: Personal reason for encouraging organ donors

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My other half is currently once again enjoying the delightful hospitality of the Hotel du Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

He’s there so often I’m starting to think he may secretly quite enjoy all the NHS has to offer. To be fair, there are times a spell on a busy cardiology ward sounds quite attractive compared with the mayhem at home.

His current visit is a tickle and a polish when placed alongside some he’s been through (easy for me to say as I’m not getting a laser shoved into my heart). Certainly other than a few blips along the way, we can’t praise the NHS highly enough.

The “biggy” was two years ago when, after months of dangling by the thinnest of threads, he received the greatest gift of all, a liver transplant.

Only those who have been through it can fully grasp the complexities of receiving a donor organ. The physical elements of being so sick you need this immense procedure is just part one of the story.

Part two is the emotional turbulence it brings: the near death experiences; the hoping and waiting; the stomach churning disappointment of the “false call”, when an organ is found but isn’t suitable and the brain-bursting concept that what is now keeping him going was once a vital component of another.

We don’t know anything about where his liver came from but we are extremely grateful to our donor family. Whoever they are.

Which is why I feel so sad for the families of Welsh kidney transplant patients Darren Hughes and Robert Stuart. They now know the donor was a 39-year-old alcoholic with cirrhosis whose kidneys had been turned down by the excellent ERI transplant specialists plus a string of other hospitals. It later transpired they were infected with a very rare parasitic worm.

The men’s deaths has now raised questions over the standards some transplants units employ in the bid to reach all important “targets”. Indeed, it has emerged that one in four organ transplants come from high risk donors – elderly, drug users or cancer patients, a reason, if any were needed, for more people to join the donor register.

The great fear is all this may put off people at both ends of the chain, those who need a lifesaving transplant and families with the power to decide whether a loved one becomes a donor.

As I wait for the phone to ring with news of how my other half is doing, I’m acutely aware that every operation carries a risk.

And that for many – like my husband – the incredible gift of organ transplant is the only reason they are still alive.

When you run out of options, surely that must be a risk worth taking?