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How talking about organ donation with your family will save lives

Organ donation week 2023

This week is Organ Donation Week (September 18-24) and according to the NHS Blood and Transplant Service, more than 7,000 people in the UK are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

Depending on the organ needed, many patients can find themselves waiting for several years before a viable organ becomes available. Last year, over 430 people died while waiting for a transplant.

Although Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust doesn’t perform organ donations, nine of its patients expressed their wish to be donors, helping 21 patients with their generosity. Between them they donated 16 kidneys, four livers, five hearts (including three for valves), two lungs, a pancreas and three pairs of corneas.

This shows the impact relatively few donors can make and how it transforms and saves the lives of those people who received the donated organs – as well as their families and loved ones.

One of those who knows first-hand the difference that organ donation can make is Chief Executive of the Trust, Matthew Hopkins, who received two separate donor kidneys to treat hereditary kidney disease.

Matthew’s life changed thirty years ago when his mother was suddenly taken ill with what subsequent tests revealed to be polycystic kidney disease, an incurable genetic condition.

He said: “I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which replaces your normal kidney tissue with fluid-filled cysts. While there are treatments that are being developed to slow the progression of the disease there is no cure. After my mum was rushed to hospital and tests revealed that she had the disease, I had an ultrasound scan which found that I also had the condition.

“I've had my kidney function closely monitored ever since and did all the things I needed to do to say healthy, cycling to work, staying hydrated and not having a high-salt diet. By 2016, my kidney function had gotten quite poor, down to about 10% of normal function, so in the summer I was put onto the transplant waiting list.

Luckily in March 2017 a kidney became available, so Matthew had his first kidney transplant. Unfortunately, about six months after his operation tests showed that it wasn’t working as well as hoped, so in 2018 Matthew was put back on the transplant waiting list.”

His partner Rachel, now his wife, got tested and luckily turned out to be a good match, so, thanks to her he was able to have a second kidney transplant in July 2019 and that has been working well ever since.

Matthew knows just how fortunate he has been, he said: “There are a lot of people on the transplant waiting list that aren't as lucky as me and haven’t had a good-matched kidney become available. That’s why it's important to raise awareness during Organ Donation Week and promote the importance of people registering their wishes, so their family understands that if they do have a terrible incident, then end up dying, that they do want to donate their organs to help others. It is vitally important to have that conversation with your family.

“That's nine people that could potentially benefit, meaning you or a loved you could have a life-changing impact on the lives of nine people in a really positive way. Although I obviously can’t donate my kidneys, I’m still on that transplant list for my eyes, liver and other organs.”

To register your organ donation decision, you can call 0300 123 23 23 or complete it online in just two minutes here: Register your decision - NHS Organ Donation

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