We talk to our CEO, Liz, about organ donation, why this is such a personal cause for her, and what we can all do to help… Organ Donation Week is a campaign launched by the NHS every September to raise awareness and encourage as many people as possible to support organ donation by registering a decision to donate and by talking to their family… something as simple as a conversation with a loved one can end up saving a life.

Q&A with Liz

For those of us who may not know your story, why is Organ Donation Week so important to you?

My eldest son Will was always a keen supporter of organ donation and encouraged us as a family to carry cards. When he was tragically killed in a cycling accident in 2016 at the age of 20 we did not hesitate to agree to his wishes to donate all his organs. Obviously, nothing can bring back Will and I miss him every single day, but knowing that he saved so many people’s lives gives us some solace.

Tell us about the initiative you’ve spear-headed with the NHS. Any successes so far?

I knew from the nursing staff that Will’s organs had transformed so many lives but couldn’t understand why two years after Will’s accident we had heard nothing from the recipients.

So, I decided to find out why so few recipients of organs wrote to thank their donor’s family. In 2018 only 11% of recipients wrote. This is when the ‘Don’t Forget the Donor’ (DFTD) initiative was set up as it became clear that the recipients of organs had not been told how important it was for donor’s families to know the difference their loved one’s donation has made.

DFTD is focused on educating both medical staff and organ recipients on the importance of writing to the donor’s family to say a simple thank you. At the end of 2018 I wrote to Will’s recipients (all anonymously as dictated by the strict guidelines) and had two wonderful letters back that meant so much to us, including knowing that the little boy that got part of Will’s liver can now go to nursery and that he calls Will his hero.

How can we all help?

Please don’t opt out when it comes to organ donation as there are so many people awaiting transplants. Also, if you know anybody that has had a transplant please ask them if they have thought to write something back to the family of the donor. They may not realise it at first, but I can’t tell you how important it is to acknowledge the gift for those of us left behind.

Organ donation facts

Right now across the UK, there are around 6,000 people in need of an organ transplant, including around 200 children and teenagers. Every day in the UK, someone dies waiting for an organ transplant, because there just aren’t enough organ donors.

For people in black, Asian and ethnic minority communities the situation is even more critical. These patients wait longer for a kidney transplant than white patients due to a shortage of donors from their communities who are more likely to be a suitable match.

If you donate your organs after you die you could save and improve the lives of up to nine people, and help even more if you donate tissue such as heart valves, skin, bone, tendons and corneas

Go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk today to record your donation decision, it only takes a few minutes. Please remember to pass it on to your family to help ensure they honour this when the time comes. Ask them whether they want to be donors too.