THE issue of our mortality, and the prospect of donating organs after death, is something many of us would rather not confront - but with nearly 1,000 people in the district waiting for a transplant, Bradfordians are being urged to spell out their organ donation wishes.
Staff at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust want people to get talking about organ donation. Deputy medical director and renal consultant Dr Robin Jeffrey said there are 921 people waiting for a transplant in Bradford. During 2013/14 a total of 1,182 people in the district received a life-saving transplant, but five people died waiting.
Dr Jeffrey said: “For those waiting for a transplant life can be stark. The reality is that many of our patients will have very long waits and some, unfortunately, may never get the opportunity of a transplant operation. I would urge people to have the conversation of what they would like to happen to their organs whenever they die.
"No-one likes to talk about death, but this might come to your front door and if it does, consider if you would you like to help someone else after you die."
With lower numbers of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, renal consultant and the Foundation Trust's leading figure on kidney transplants, Dr John Stoves said patients from these communities often end up waiting much longer for a transplant.
A national initiative to support organ donation in BAME communities is led by key representatives in collaboration with the National BAME Transplant Alliance (NBTA) and other organisations including UK Transplant.
“The NBTA was set up to save lives, raise awareness of inequalities and promote the importance of transplantation with the aim of increasing the number of BAME people volunteering as donors and consenting to donation," said Dr Stoves. “On average, one in three people die waiting for a transplant every day because there are not enough organ donors. Only a very small percentage of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register are from BAME communities, so it is more difficult for patients from these communities to find a match and they end up waiting much longer for a kidney transplant - approximately four years on average.”
According to Kidney Research UK, kidney failure is up to five times more common in people from BAME communities. With kidneys being the most needed organ, the charity is training 'peer educators' to raise awareness in their own communities.
Nadeem Butt got involved when his friend, Mohammed Rafique Butt, had a kidney transplant after being on dialysis for four years. Nadeem has signed the organ donation register and campaigns for others to do the same. “People are struggling for life and are waiting for an angel to turn up with a kidney,” he said. “We are sending out the message that charity is not only about giving money or clothes, it's also about donating parts of the body."
Last year Mohammed Islam, from Bradford, received a kidney from his younger brother after it had proved difficult to find a kidney match, due to a lack of donors from Asian communities. Now Mohammed is keen to encourage more people to sign up.
He said: “For every kidney dialysis patient who receives a transplant, it’s not just them you're giving another chance to, but their families and friends too. You'll have an impact on every part of the patient's life.For anyone who have a family member with kidney failure, ask not what others can do without asking 'What can I do?' What would you want to happen if it was you?”
It’s a call echoed by Bradford Royal Infirmary specialist nurse for organ donation Lauren Ward, who is encouraging people to discuss organ donation, to ensure that loved ones are made aware of wishes.
“This year we hope to encourage more people in Bradford than ever before to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and to tell their family they want to be a donor," she said. “Many people don't realise that if they haven’t made their donation decision clear, their family could be asked to agree to donation taking place. Nobody wants to leave their family with such a burden.”
Lubna Khalid, 39, of Thornbury, had a kidney transplant three years ago and is now one of 20 Bradford Beating Diabetes Champions tackling diabetes and raising awareness in the district.
Mrs Khalid had to visit hospital three days a week on dialysis. “It was a very hard life; you go to hospital for hours while they clean your blood, then you come home and you don’t have any energy left. Emotionally and physically you feel weak. Your whole life changes," she said.
Following her transplant, she was identified as being at risk of developing diabetes, leading her to change to a healthier diet.
“I never realised how important it was to keep healthy before I became ill," she said. "Because of the things I went through, I want to help people and make sure they have enough information.
* For more information about organ donation visit organdonation.nhs.uk or call the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 2323.