Kate Clarkson, one of the Trust's health visitors is calling on
colleagues and the public to sign up to the Organ Donor Register as
part of National Transplant Week (Monday July 9-15).
The Trust has backed her call and has today launched a staff
campaign to encourage as many of their 800 employees as possible to
In March 2012, 58-year-old Kate became the North East's first
altruistic female living organ donor. She realises that becoming a
living donor isn't for everyone, so she's appealing to people
across the region to pledge organ donation after their death by
signing the Organ Donor Register.
In October 2010, Kate, a humanist, was asked to speak at a
commemoration service for transplant patients and their families.
It was an experience that moved her to consider becoming a living
Kate, from Hexham, said: "I've been a nurse for 40 years and I
thought I was hardened to these sorts of things - but this service
was the most heart-rending experience that I've ever had. Listening
to those people who had lost relatives or who were waiting for
organs to save their lives was unbelievably moving.
"I had been reading about becoming a living donor and I was so
moved that day that I decided if I could help, I would. I just
thought 'I've got a spare kidney that I don't even need and people
are dying every single day waiting for one.' So if it was possible,
I was going to do it."
After contacting transplant specialists, Kate underwent a string
of screenings, tests and interviews spanning nearly a year to
ensure her fitness for undergoing the procedure. Kate is keen to
stress how careful and thorough the medical support and preparation
had been to ensure both hers and the recipient's safety and well
being. "Every step of the way I was asked if I was still sure about
going ahead," she said.
"I only told family, close friends, and colleagues and no-one
tried to stop me - most people just said 'good for you' and I think
they knew that it was something I just had to do."
Kate's kidney was first matched with a recipient who
unfortunately became too ill to undergo the transplant operation,
as people can wait a very long time to get a match, all the while
their health gets worse, but very soon a second match was
"It was incredible. Within three hours of the surgery, the
kidney was in the recipient and working at full capacity. Twice
since I've heard that the recipient is doing well and has made a
donation to charity as a thank you.
"Becoming a living donor is not for everyone, but for me it just
wasn't a major decision - it just seemed like the right thing to
"I wouldn't pressure anyone into it but if you are thinking
about it, go ahead, and I honestly don't feel any different. The
after effects were easily managed, no worse than a caesarean
section, and my one kidney has almost doubled in size to do the
extra work and is working perfectly well.
"I can't think of any justification at all for not donating your
organs when you are dead - and it's so easy to do. All you need to
do is text 'SAVE' to 84118. If we can save just one life through
raising awareness through the Trust's campaign, then it absolutely
is worth it."
Helen Dixon, Specialist Nurse Organ Donation, working for NHS
Blood Transplant and based at the Trust, speaks to relatives on
hospital wards and undertakes education programmes surrounding the
benefits of organ donation.
She said that organ donation rates in the North East were among
the best in the country, with only 22% of the North's population
having signed up to the Organ Donation Register.
In 2011-2012, in the County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust
area, there were 11 cases of donor consent and nine of these
proceeded to surgery - but this compares to just three cases in
2010-2011). From those nine cases, 22 people received organ
transplants, ranging in age from 14 to 75.
National statistics show that 96% of us would take an organ if
we needed one, yet only 29% of us have taken action and signed the
Organ Donation Register.
Helen continued: "The single most important problem that we have
is that people generally do not discuss their wishes with their
families. It's so important, not just to sign up to the Organ
Donation Register, that people talk about the issue with their
loved ones and make their feelings known - even if they are set
against the idea."
The Trust is raising awareness of the issue throughout the
whole of National Transplant Week. Employees and visitors will be
given leaflets about organ donation at University Hospital North
Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital in a bid to encourage them
to sign up to the Organ Donation Register. People wishing to sign
up will be able to complete leaflets and post them at hospital
sites, and even sign up on the spot via text or online.
Altruistic donations were only made legal three years ago and
there are currently only around 100 cases nationally.
The NHS Organ Donor Register records the details of people who
have registered their wishes to be an organ and/or tissue donor
after their death. Age isn't a barrier and most medical conditions
don't rule you out either. The register gives hope to more than
10,000 of all ages across the UK who need a transplant - but on
average three a day die before they can have a transplant because
they are simply not enough organs available.
It's simple to join the NHS Organ Donation Register using one of
the following methods:
• go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk
• call 0300 123 23 23
• text 'save' to 84118
• post an organ donation leaflet.