A memorial to people who have given the gift of life through organ donation has been installed at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) to coincide with Organ Donation Week (7 to 13 September).
The theme of this year’s campaign by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is to encourage people to talk to their families to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by an organ donation.
As well as being a tribute to patients and their families who have given and supported organ and tissue donations for transplant, the memorial at UHS is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of having conversations with loved ones around donation.
The project was spearheaded by specialist organ donation nurses Rachel Clare and David Thomson who are part of the South Central Organ Donation Team based at UHS. The team supports families of loved ones at the end of life, through the donation process.
Rachel and David developed the idea of the memorial as a lasting tribute to donors and were delighted to see the Gift of Life piece depicting sails and sea birds installed to coincide with the national awareness week.
Rachel said: “The aim of the artwork is two-fold. Firstly in recognition of all the people and their families who, in the most difficult and emotional of times, have thought of others.
“Secondly, by having such a prominent memorial shows that we are not hiding the subject of organ donation away but recognising it as an important part of end-of-life care. Having conversations with family about organ donation is a really important thing to do so that your loved ones are aware of what your wishes would be.”
The memorial recognises all donors and their families who have made the decision to donate. Last year at UHS, 38 patients were able to donate organs at the end of life.
One of the families to whom the memorial is dedicated is that of Russell Holmes who died suddenly in 2008 following a brain haemorrhage at the age of 26.
Russell’s mum Pauline, from Southampton, said the memorial was a fitting way to honour the memory of those who had made the decision to donate. She said: “This memorial means a lot as it is a lasting recognition of what donors and their families have given to save or change another person’s life.
“I love the idea of the yachts in the memorial as it reminds me of when you see one go over the horizon it will go out of your view but into someone else’s. In the same way when you lose someone but they donate, someone else’s life can begin again.
“It is so important that people know the importance of donating and how well supported you are throughout that process.”
From 20 May this year, the law around organ donation changed in England. All adults are now considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die, unless they record a decision not to donate, are in one of the excluded groups or have told their family that they don’t want to donate.
Rachel added: “It is still your choice whether you would what to be a donor or not. The important part is making that decision either way and ensuring those around you are aware of it.
“Knowing what your relative wanted, helps families support their decision around organ donation at what is often a difficult time. We desperately need more people to talk about organ donation to help increase the number of lifesaving transplants.”
A virtual official dedication of the artwork at UHS is now being planned. Visit organdonation.nhs.uk to register your decision and find out more.
Posted on Thursday 10 September 2020