Everyone is trying to recycle and reuse as much as they can to save the planet, my question is, would you consider recycling your organs to save a friend or stranger?
Good evening Mr. President, Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.
This is a very personal topic and I understand that everyone will have their own views on it, mine comes from watching one of my uncles wait for a liver transplant, fully understanding and acknowledging that for him to get that call, another family had suffered a massive loss. He was notified that there was a suitable liver available, but then the donor family changed their mind, which is perfectly understandable, it’s a tough decision to make at a difficult time in your life. My uncle’s time ran out before he could get a second call, if it happened today all our family could have been tested and one of us may have been able to donate part of our liver to him, with no permanent damage done to the remaining donor liver, as the donor’s liver grows back. In the 90’s, when he needed one, a liver transplant meant the recipient needed to receive the entire liver from a donor. However, with your indulgence, I would like to use this speech to explain a little bit about organ donation.
The organs that can be donated are the liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine, you can also donate tissue such as skin, corneas, bone tissue including tendons, cartilage, heart valves and blood vessels. From this list, the organs that you can donate while alive are most commonly kidneys, but, now they can also transplant parts of lungs, livers and the pancreas. This means that one donor can save up to eight lives after death, this can rise to fifty lives, if you include the tissue donations. In 2017, 51 of the 190 Kidney donations were live donations. The most up to date figures for 2018 show that 80 people generously gifted their organs, from the 80 donors, many of whom donated multiple organs, a total of 231 transplants were completed. Across the three national transplant centres, 120 kidneys, 18 hearts, 27 lungs, 56 liver and 5 pancreas surgeries were completed. In addition, living donors gave kidneys to enhance the lives of 37 patients that year. Currently, Irish hospitals do not carry out live transplants, so Irish Patients need to travel to England to avail of this surgery. Hopefully this will change in the near future.
Presently, if you want to donate organs, you need to carry an Organ Donor Card signed by you and a next of kin, or you can tick the box on your driving licence and passport, it is wise for a potential donor to have a conversation about their wishes with their family and loved ones, so that they can, in turn, inform a Dr in a hospital, should the situation arise. A Donor family can always overrule the donor’s wishes, should they feel strongly about it. Not everyone who has consented to be a donor, will have their organs used as certain criteria need to be met before the organs can be used for another patient. These include the potential donor having either a brain stem death (Brain no longer functions with no chance of recovery) or a cardiac death (illness or injury from which there is no hope of recovery) whiles in a hospital and maintained on a life support machine. 4-6 weeks after the donor patient has died their family receive an update from the Donor Co-ordinator as to who benefitted from the donation(s). The donors identify is kept confidential at all times. Ireland has one of the highest rates of donation for our population size, with approximately 300 transplants taking place annually, however, there are more than 500 people waiting for a donation. More than 80% of Irish people surveyed approve of organ donation.
“Organ donation is not a tragedy but it can be a beautiful light in the midst of one.” – Anon
Some people say that it can help the grieving process to know that your loved one has helped save or improve one or more lives.
The organs and the potential recipient need to match and a time is scheduled for the donation to take place, a donor coordinator meets the donor’s family and outlines the process whiles answering the family’s questions. The donor operation occurs in the same hospital that the donor has died in. Each organ has its own transplant team consisting of two surgeons and a nurse. The care and dignity of the donor is paramount at all times. At this point all the teams go to the recipient’s hospitals and the transplants are carried out as quickly as possible. Sometimes a transplant can be rejected by the recipient’s body, this may result in another transplant, if a matching organ can be found.
“The greatest gift you can receive, is another day of life” – Anon
Liam Neeson’s wife, the actress Natasha Richardson donated organs after her death and saved three people. Ashton Kutchers twin brother Michael, due to his cerebral palsy needed and received a new heart when he was a baby and he now serves as an advocate for children with disabilities. Selena Gomez received a kidney from a friend, Jonah Lomu also required a new kidney. Other famous people who received organs are (actor/comedian), Tracy Morgan, (footballer) George Best, (Musicians), David Crosby and Lou Reed, (Conservationist) Gerald Durrell, Steve Jobs, and the actor Larry Hagman amongst many others. Stevie Wonder is having a kidney transplant in September.
Vera Dwyer from Sligo, the worlds’ longest surviving lung transplant patient celebrated the 30th anniversary of her transplant last November at a ceremony hosted by the National Heart and Lung Transplant Centre, at the Mater Hospital. Vera expressed her gratitude to her donors, both for the lungs she received in 1988 and a kidney she received in 2009.
As I wrap up my speech for this evening, I hope that I gave you some new information and that you would consider thinking about donating organs, as you will be giving someone the wonderful gift of an extended life. If the idea of organ donation does not appeal to you, maybe you could consider either donating blood, platelets or maybe joining the bone marrow transplant list? As all these things are needed.
Mr. President, Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome Guests thank you for listening to my rather dry speech.