Organ Donation Week 2023 runs between the 18 and 24 September. During this week, the NHS aims to encourage at least 25,000 people to register their decision for the first time. As part of Organ Donation Week 2023, the NHS is appealing to the public to take two minutes to help save up to nine lives in the future by confirming their decision to be an organ donor.
Only a very small amount of people die in a way where it is possible for them to be organ donors. So, the more people who register as donors, the better chance we have of organ donation being possible. More information on being an organ donor is available here.
Organ donation can have a big impact on both the families of those who have lost a loved one, and of course, the person who receives a much needed second chance in life. Two Sheffield families have shared their stories to highlight the impact organ donation can have.
Saving lives: Brian Stapleton
Sheffield dad, husband and retired NHS worker, Brian Stapleton, was 69 and in good health when he unexpectedly suffered a fatal cardiac arrest at home. Brian’s decision to join the organ donation register prior to his tragic passing meant that he was able to give a life-saving gift to three people in need.
His proud daughter, Megan Healy, told of the night Brian went into cardiac arrest at home on 13 October 2022. She said:
“Dad had been suffering from chest pain the day before but had been doing some painting and thought it was because of that. He woke up that night thinking he had indigestion and took some Gaviscon, but mum later heard him making a strange noise and realised he was in cardiac arrest.”
Brian’s wife, Josie, performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived and paramedics were able to start his heart again. He was then taken to accident and emergency at the Northern General Hospital where he suffered another cardiac arrest. Brian had a blockage in an artery to his heart which required an angioplasty and a stent to help prevent the artery from closing again. He was then admitted to the intensive care unit where he was ventilated.
Megan, who has worked at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the past 20 years, 16 years of those as a tissue viability nurse Specialist said:
“The team on the ITU were amazing and were so good at communicating what was happening with us, but, as a nurse, I knew from the start what the prognosis would be.”
Megan and Josie received the devastating news that due to the length of time that Brian’s heart had stopped, he had suffered a hypoxic brain injury that would sadly no longer be compatible with life.
“The team had started discussing organ donation with us and, given that Dad had been registered as a donor since its inception and both he and Mum held donor cards, we knew that his preference would be to donate. The consultant and organ donation nurse guided us through the process and took a medical history from Mum about my dad. They then sent out to see if he had any potential matches, which fortunately he did.”
Megan commended the care they received from the hospital and organ donation team throughout the heartbreaking time, saying:
“They were so good and supportive to all our whole family. Mum and I were by Dad’s side when he passed away and they made sure to play his favourite music whilst he was in theatre. I have twins who were only two years old at the time, so they gave us some booklets for them to read to help explain to them about death and gave them teddies to comfort them. They also had handprints taken from my dad for us to keep.”
Brian donated both of his kidneys, his liver, his corneas, and the valves from his heart and heroically saved the lives of three different people.
“Dad dedicated 40 years of his life to the NHS prior to his retirement, he was a brilliant grandad to my children and a keen football supporter. It’s comforting to see the incredible impact my dad’s decision to join the register has had on so many people and their families. I would encourage anyone to consider signing up to the organ donation register if they can.”
A second chance: David Marshall
David Marshall, who owns a refrigeration company in Sheffield, received a life-saving gift from his wife, Joanne, in the form of a kidney donation, after suffering from kidney failure for six years. David, now 49, was initially diagnosed with kidney failure when he was in his early 30s and was told that he’d eventually need either a kidney transplant or dialysis.
“I didn’t have any of the usual symptoms of kidney failure at the time, but my GP picked up on it after a routine diabetes screening.”
David was referred to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where, with regular monitoring of his health and support from the hospital team, he was able to manage the condition for the next six years. In 2009 his kidney function had dropped to the point where he would begin to need dialysis, a procedure usually carried out three days a week to clean the blood when the kidneys have stopped working properly. His other option would be to have a kidney transplant.
“I began to pre-emptively look for a live donor and my father volunteered straight away to donate. Unfortunately, tests showed that he wouldn’t be suitable and so my wife, Jo, came forward to donate her kidney instead.”
Joanne was proven to be a suitable match and the transplant was scheduled for Monday 14 December of that year.
“I still felt quite well at the time and so when we walked into hospital on the Sunday it felt like we were walking into a Premier Inn.”
Following the transplant, Joanne was able to return home within the next few days whilst David was kept on the ward to continue to be monitored. Unfortunately, David’s body initially rejected the kidney and so he was given a treatment plan of immunosuppressive medication to help his body adjust. After three weeks David was given the all-clear to leave hospital on New Year’s Day 2010.
“The care by the staff on the ward was fantastic. It was such a close knit team and because they are all specialist renal staff that tend to stick within that profession, they felt more like a family. Even now when I go for check-ups, I still see the same people I saw when I first had my transplant.”
Both David and Joanne are now doing well and continue to have regular check-ups by the renal team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“I still get checked every three months and Jo at least once a year. I normally just need to give bloods and if there are no issues, I don’t have to go into hospital, which makes it a lot easier.”
David is now also the chair of Sheffield Area Kidney Association (SAKA), a charity that helps kidney patients and their families cope with kidney failure and raises money to support kidney research.
“After everything that happened to me, I wanted to get involved and give something back in any way I could. I always think that giving time is greater than money and so working for SAKA has allowed me to help where I can.”
To join the Organ Donation Register and declare your decision please visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-your-decision/.
Article based on press release from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust