Daithi's Santa Letter

Families encouraged to talk about organ donation

10 December 2021

Saturday 11 December is Organ Donation Discussion Day. A day which encourages everyone to think about organ donation, register a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and to talk about that decision with loved ones.

As Christmas approaches, most of us are working through our shopping gift lists. But there’s one very special gift that we could all consider – the ‘gift of life’ through organ donation. Each year, hundreds of lives are saved and transformed by organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

Last year in Northern Ireland, 51 families supported the life-saving gift of organ donation resulting in 113 transplants throughout the UK, and 87 Northern Ireland residents receiving transplants. And since April alone, there have been 35 amazing donors and families who have enabled 79 patients to receive a lifesaving transplant.

This is testament to the positive attitudes of people here when it comes to organ donation. We know that 90% of people support organ donation, however only 50% have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. So with many more people willing to consider donating an organ than are actually registered as donors, initiatives such as Organ Donation Discussion Day will help put that conversation front of mind.

Catherine Coyle, Organ Donation lead at Public Health Agency said:

“Signing the Register and ensuring that loved ones are aware of your decision, will leave your family certain about what you would have wanted should the worst happen. Families will always be involved before organ donation goes ahead which is why letting them know your decision is so important. Only half of families agree to donation if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if they know their loved one wanted to save lives through donation.”

Unfortunately, in Northern Ireland there are around 134 people awaiting a transplant, waiting for the call to give them ‘the gift of life’.  The Mac Gabhann family who campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of organ donation know all too well the agony of waiting for that call.  Four year old Dáithí was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and requires a heart transplant to save his life. He’s been on the transplant waiting list for over 3 years. Dáithí’s dad Máirtín shares his family’s message:

“It is so hard to come to terms that your child’s only hope is organ donation. Organ donation is rare, with only around 1% of deaths in the UK resulting in donation. The reason we run our Donate4Dáithí campaign is to try and help normalise the talk around organ donation. Sharing your organ donation decision with family is so important, as the final decision will always be theirs. Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register is very important, but sharing that decision with loved ones is as equally important and we’re delighted to be taking part in Organ Donation Discussion Day. 

“Dáithí is now getting to the age and realising that sometimes he can’t keep up with others his age and asked if Santa brings him a new heart, would he be able to run as much as his friends in his class. That is heart-breaking to hear but we just hope that one day we get that special call, that Dáithí deserves, to say that there is a new heart for him. Until that day comes we will continue to spread awareness of organ donation. Organ donation is the greatest gift of all, and is used as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.”

Organ donation is a most precious gift and the selfless act of donors and their families is treasured, in particular for those who receive a transplant. We encourage families to take a moment to talk about organ donation and to join this vital discussion.