The NHS is launching a new campaign to urge families in Cambridgeshire to talk about organ donation following research that less than half of adults in England have had the conversation.
The Leave Them Certain campaign aims to highlight the impact not knowing has on the families who are left behind and encourage people talk about their decision. It follows the law change last year in England, which means that all adults are seen as willing to donate their organs, unless they opt out or are in one of the excluded groups.
In Cambridgeshire, 408,700 people are currently on the NHS Organ Donor Register, with 24 people becoming donors in the last year, but the NHS needs more people to talk with their families about their decision. Many still don’t realise that families will still be approached before any donation goes ahead.
As part of the campaign, a new TV advert launched this week featuring the Kakkad family. Shivum’s father Bharat died from a cardiac arrest when he was 63 in May 2019, but the family had never spoken about organ donation.
The advert features family footage and memories of Bharat but ends with another memory – when they asked Shivum if his father wanted to be an organ donor and he just didn’t know.
Significantly, Shivum and his family did agree to organ donation, but it was a decision that could have been made easier if they’d had the conversation.
One person who knows the importance of having the conversation is Alison Moore from Chatteris. Her mum Yvonne sadly died after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage while playing bingo in November 2011. She was 72 years old. Alison and her mum had previously talked about organ donation after hearing the subject discussed on the radio.
Alison said: “We were in the car when the subject of organ donation came up on the radio and it prompted us to have a chat about it. My mum joked saying: “I don’t think they would want anything of mine, but if they do, they can have whatever they like!” It was such a quick, light-hearted conversation, but not one that you forget.
“When the specialist nurse came to speak to me about organ donation, it was an instant decision to say yes. I didn’t have to take a breath. Having had that conversation with mum made it so much easier. When I said my final goodbye to mum, I told her “I love you, and always will. You gave me life, now you have a chance to give someone else new life”.
Yvonne went on to help five other people by donating both her kidneys, liver and corneas.
Alison continued: “Mum had a wicked sense of humour and was always there for other people. She had wonderful friends; the church was packed for her funeral. I am so proud of her. She did a great thing in death. Donation was the rainbow of hope that emerged from the black cloud of losing my mum.
“I now give talks about organ donation, which is hard because it takes me back to that time and thinking about mum dying. But if one person comes up to me afterwards and says they will talk to their family about it, or will sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, it’s worth it. There are too many people dying on the waiting list.”
Unlike Alison’s family, most people still haven’t had the conversation, leaving them unsure what their loved one would have wanted.
The NHS has some produced some tips and guidance to help start the conversation:
- Start by checking in first; ‘how are you doing?’ so you can gauge whether now is a good time. Choose a time when you’re not too distracted or when you’re sharing a space, or time with each other, maybe over a cup of tea or out walking.
- Perhaps there is something that prompts the conversation – passing a driving test, seeing our campaign TV advert, or an article in the paper.
- Open with ‘did you hear’ and not your own point of view; or use a hypothetical ‘how would you feel if…’
- If faith is important to you, open with talking about what you know about your faith’s beliefs on giving.
- Acknowledge it’s a difficult subject and that you don’t have to agree.
For more information on organ donation, and to register your decision, please visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23