This Christmas the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging everyone in Northern Ireland to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and give the ‘Gift of Life’.
Almost 300 people in Northern Ireland are currently waiting for a transplant. Sadly the chance of a transplant will come too late for many.
Belfast’s World Champion Transplant athlete Orla Smyth is echoing the PHA’s plea; Orla had a life saving transplant four years ago which has dramatically changed her life.
“’It was a very good year’ is a song by Frank Sinatra that I only know because it was on the sound track of one of my favourite shows, but actually I can’t think of a better way to describe 2011 for me.
“The past 12 months have seen me complete my first marathon in under four hours (can’t leave that bit out!), take part in my first World Transplant Games winning five gold medals and setting three world records and then being part of the victorious Northern Ireland team at the British Transplant Games at home in Belfast.
“I don’t often take time to sit back and reflect on what has happened in the past but I realise just how lucky I am to have been able to experience such an amazing year. This time four years ago I had just been transplanted a matter of weeks and the prospect of doing any of those things wasn’t even on the horizon. For three and half years leading up to the transplant every night was spent connected to my dialysis machine. Walking a mile proved difficult, never mind running one. My life changed dramatically when I was lucky enough to get a kidney and that Christmas was the first time in nearly four years I didn’t have to dialyse on Christmas Eve.
“Christmas is such a magical time - buying presents, meeting up with friends who are home for the holidays and spending time with family. I love Christmas for all those things. It really is the time of year when we get to see people’s generosity and gratitude on a daily basis.
“Because of the amazing generosity of my donor and her family I am approaching my fourth Christmas as a transplanted patient. I am fit and healthy and so grateful for that. However, there are so many people who are still waiting for an organ that aren’t so lucky.
“Organ donation really is ‘the gift of life’ and I am living proof of that. So as Christmas and the New Year approach, I really hope the people of Northern Ireland - who are some of the most generous people in the world - take the first step and sign on to the donor register and discuss their wishes with their families. There really is no bigger gift than that.”
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA and Chair of the Northern Ireland Organ Donation Task Force Implementation Group, said: “The PHA is appealing for everyone who has not yet signed the NHS Organ Donor Register to please do so today. Christmas really is a time for showing our love and appreciation of others, signing the Organ Donor Register provides an excellent opportunity in which we can showcase this. We cannot express the importance of registration enough, transplants dramatically changes lives, Orla is proof that transplantation is a life saving gift that keeps on giving.
“Together we can help others in need and save lives by joining the Organ Donor Register. Please take the time to do so by filling in a form online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk, texting save to 84118 or calling the NHS Donor line on 0300 123 23 23.”
Edwin Poots, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety added: “At this time of year, we are preparing gifts for family and friends. I would urge everyone to consider the ultimate gift – the gift of life. The recent transplant games highlighted how a transplant can not only save someone's life, but can restore them to a high level of health, fitness and enjoyment of life – Orla is a shining example of this.
"The number of Northern Ireland people on the organ donor register is steadily increasing, which is wonderful; however demand for organs is still far outstripping supply. I would urge everyone to strongly consider joining the organ donor register, and to discuss their wishes with their friends and family. It is one of the most generous things a human being can do to help others.”
Contact the Public Health Agency on 028 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by:
• or www.walloflife.org.uk
• Calling the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23
• Texting SAVE to 84118
You can also join when you are:
• Registering for a driving licence
• Applying for a Boots Advantage Card
• Registering at a GP surgery
• Registering for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)