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Organ donation EXT

How much do you know about organ donation?

As part of National Organ Donation Week, we asked our organ donation specialist team about their role and how they help support families whose loved ones are able to be organ or tissue donors.

Last year in UHS, 38 people (adults and children) donated their organs at the end of their life. 

This resulted in 125 life-saving transplants being performed. Supporting families through this sensitive process is our team of specialist organ donation nurses who are called upon when staff believe there is the opportunity for a patient to become a donor.

Only people who are ventilated at the end of life can be organ donors, which means that these patients are cared for in the intensive care unit or emergency department.

Of course not everyone’s life ends in these circumstances but there is still an opportunity to donate tissue.

Unlike organ donation, the donor does not have to have been in a hospital intensive care unit or emergency department before death to donate tissue after death. Almost anyone can be considered for tissue donation, and donation needs to take place within 24  to 48 hours of death.

Every year thousands of patients need tissue transplant surgery, but there is a national shortage of donated eye and heart valve tissue in the UK. 

Many more people would benefit from sight- saving or life-saving heart surgery if more tissues were donated.

Heart valves can be transplanted to help up to four patients. The ‘aortic’ or ‘pulmonary’ heart valves and/or patches can be transplanted from one donor. These transplants will save the lives of babies and children born with heart defects and adults suffering with diseased or infected heart valves.

Eye tissue can be transplanted to help up to ten patients. The clear outer layer (cornea) of a donated eye may be transplanted into patients who are blind because they have a damaged cornea, or to relieve pain, treat eye infection or injury in other patients. The white part of a donated eye (sclera) can be donated to restore sight for patients who are going blind due to glaucoma.

Last year (2018/19) there were 138 eye donors at UHS. In June the Trust shared the news that eye experts based at UHS were the first in the UK to use a new surgical laser that can split corneal tissue in two – potentially doubling the number of patients who could benefit from sight-saving transplants, read more about that here.

We are often asked by relatives whether they will find out who benefited from their loved ones death. 

Some information about the patients who have been able to have transplant surgery as a result of your relative’s donation may be forwarded to you afterwards if you wish. Information about research studies may also be available.

Sadly, around three people every day die in need of an organ transplant. You can help us save and improve lives by registering your decision on the organ donor register and telling your family.

It is also worth remembering that in Spring next year the law around organ donation is changing. This means that from spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered an organ donor when they die unless they had recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.If you would like to find out more about the changes, read more here.

To find out more information about organ and tissue donation, please follow the links below.

Organ donation

Tissue donation

Eye donation

Organ donation, faith and belief