We are in the middle of a shift and one of our mates asks us if we could do a job for them as a favour – they are off shift in a hour and the job is for an emergency transfer from someone's home to a hospital waaaay outside of our patch. We do it because it's awful to get off shift late, and to be honest, for us a change is as good as a rest.

The job is a simple one – pick up patient from their home and take them to hospital as quickly as possible – no thinking required and I don't even need to do any vital sign measurements on this job.

The patient is a one year old child in liver failure and her parents have just been told that a donor organ may have become available.

When we arrive at the home the whole place is in uproar, it's late in the evening and every member of the family is scrabbling around gathering things into no small number of bags. Clothes, food and the sort of supplies you need for a very sick little one year old.

I do my best to try and bring a little calm to the chaos but the family aren't having any of it, they are in near panic and their emotions are somewhere between fear and joy. I know when to admit defeat and I leave them be.

The transport itself is fairly smooth although the child alternates between crying and griping for the whole trip, I can't really say I blame her as I would imagine that she isn't too happy to be going back into hospital again. Her parents do pretty much everything that they can to keep her happy but unfortunately for my sanity nothing seems to work.

They seem like nice folks, they have another older child and from what little I saw of them they were well behaved and happy, always a good sign when there is a seriously ill sibling in the family.

We reach the hospital and the nurse beds them down, there is going to be a lot more testing before any operation but I've done my bit.

I like going to strange hospitals, the nurses on the ward always offer us cups of tea and I am way too polite to refuse…

So it's a nice job and we manage to get back into our area for the end of our shift, but I do wonder about the donor.

The donor must have been young, and their last journey was probably in an ambulance staffed by colleagues of ours. Their parents would have been distraught and panicky, and then they would have had to made the decision to allow the doctors and nurses to stop trying to save their child.

And then they made a decision to allow their child's body to be used to help others, a wonderful and brave decision. And because of that decision a one year old child they will never know is going to get a chance of life.

I've been on the organ donor list for years, why don't you think about it?

31 thoughts on “Donation”

  1. Is anything happening about the assumed consent bill the news was talking about a couple of months back? Seems the best idea to me, having to opt out rather than opt in.

  2. Everyone should do everyone else a favour, and put themselves on the bone marrow register as well. It's done me no harm to be on it for the last few years, and if I ever get a call to donate I'll be glad to, knowing it might prevent someone from losing someone they care about

  3. On Aug. 1st, it will be 11 years since I received my liver transplant. I battled primary sclerosing cholangitis, and autoimmune liver disease fro 12 years prior to that, and feel very fortunate to have gotten my gift of life.Kudos to you Tom for being so understanding, and also for promoting organ donation.

  4. Yup – all my next of kin have been informed that I want to get to the breakers yard when I shuffle off this mortal coil, donor card in wallet.If I can't use the bits any more, there's no reason why someone else can.t…

  5. Thank you for this reminder Tom, My thoughts are with all concerned,as there is no heirarchy in anquish and grief.

    Is there any chance of knowing in the future if the transplant was a success, or is this against the codes of your proffession and internet codes ?

    all the best Thalia

  6. exactly my view as well, I've been on the donor register since I was 16 and everyone in my family knows my/our wishes as well. The only thing which worries me is giving an organ to someone like George Best who after destroying his own with alcohol and getting a brand spanking new liver, decided to drink himself to death again. I know that some people are addicts and need help, but I've absolutely no doubt that someone else's life was put in jeopardy by that, thankfully it's just a minority though.

  7. Can't, people with M.E. aren't allowed to donate organs, blood or bone marrow, but I wish I could. I had a donor card from a child, after discussion with my mum. She's down to lose her organs too, when she dies.

  8. Unless I get called back to the house and remember this job (not guaranteed at all) then I'm not going to hear anything more about it.My time in people's lives is often less than forty minutes. It's a shame sometimes, but less so if the patient is really annoying…

  9. Ditto, i'm on the organ register now, have been for a few years, and I seem to be missing 13 units of blood too :)I do hope everything wen't well for them.

  10. I've been a regular reader for some time now, but I've never posted before, but this post really struck a chord with me.It's 5 years today since my dear dad passed away.

    It was very sudden, a brain haemorrage at the age of 66.

    All the family knew that he'd always carried a donor so when the hospital asked if his organs could be used we had no hesitation in saying yes.

    We received a letter about a month later saying that 2 men (about his age) had received a kidney each, both transplants had been sucessfull and they were no longer on daily dialysis.

    Then about a year later we got another letter telling us that his corneas had been used to restore the slight of a 21 year man.

    I can't tell you what a good feeling it is to know firstly that we followed his wishes, and secondly that he made a big difference to the lives of 3 men, and their families too.

    It may be a difficult decision at a difficult time, but for our family it has been a real comfort.

  11. the nurses on the ward always offer us cups of tea and I am way too polite to refuse…So it's not “a cup of tea would be nice” then? On a slightly different note, did you hear about the man who wanted to donate bone marrow, a possible recipient was found but the donor was refused because of his BMI. Thing was, he wasn't overweight, he was an athlete. Rules,rules,rules!

    If,God forbid, any of your organs were donated, I think they'd have to be tested for tannin content!

  12. While I was listed as an organ donor long before I was married, it was watching my husband slowly die from the complications of renal failure (He was on dialysis for over 9 years) while listed for a kidney he would never get that drove home for me the need for more people to become organ donors. Or, better yet, changing the system to a perceived YES instead of NO, in terms of determining who may be a donor.There was a movement here in the US at one point that basically would have been this, with the option that if you opted to not be a donor, you could not receive an organ if you needed it. If you changed your mind and opted in, then you would wait one year before being placed on the list.

  13. I've been listed as a donor ever since I got my driver's licence. It's right there on the card, next to “must wear corrective lenses,” (which is outdated because I've had eye surgery and no longer wear glasses.)

  14. Just remember to tell the people you know and love, who can make the right decision. Your license is just an indication that you wish to be a donor. Most organ donor procurement organizations require two people to give consent, regardless of what the donor may want (At least here in the U.S.).

  15. I give blood and I would like to give bone marrow but my iron count is too low (I can only just about give blood and they always end up doin the test twice).I don't think my liver is in a good enough state to go to anyone else….

  16. If anyone wants what's left of my internal organs they are welcome to them (though missing most of everything in the pelvis already!). I can't give blood or bone marrow due to previous illness/major surgery which is a shame.

  17. I always have been on the donor list- i'd like to think when i die i can do something to allow someone else to live.Reading this post reminds me why, it brought tears to my eyes- for the little one that died, and for the ill 1 year old. And for both their families.

  18. I'm glad you wrote about this, it's such an important topic that I think a lot of people never really consider. I'm registered for organ donation, which to me is the most obvious thing ever – some members of my family are surprisingly squeamish about it, although luckily my parents both feel as I do. I'm also registered (well, I will be when I sign the forms) to donate my brain for research into neurodegenerative disorders. The link for more information is I don't yet know if that's compatible with organ donation – I'm trying to find out – but if people are unable to donate organs then it's something to consider. I don't give blood, unfortunately – I did once, fainted, and was told that I shouldn't ever again because it was dangerous for me. Still not entirely sure why – it can't be unusual to faint after losing however much blood it is that they take – but there it is.

  19. What you are describing is an “opt out” system and while not present here, Pennsylvania (among some other states) adopted a system some time ago where no family consent is required if the person has a signed donor card. NY State just changed its own donor registry to a “consent” system, where by if you register, it is to give your consent as a donor, as opposed to just putting your name on a list of intent.At no time however in the US was there ever a consideration of an opt out system that would deny the person the right to getting an organ if they chose to opt out of donation. I was an organ procurement coordinator here in upstate NY prior to leaving health care altogether, and I worked directly with transplant teams here in Rochester. What you are describing was a movement by de facto organizations with no link to the OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) such as Life Sharers, et. al. The idea of denial of transplantation based on consent was something that was flatly reject by UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, that oversees all facets of donation and transplantation in the US, and manages the donor waiting list here in the States.

  20. Wow, that sounds a bit different to what has been proposed here (ie a system whereby unless you have opted out whilst alive, your organs may be used regardless of your family's wishes) but I'd never thought of the sort of small print that could apply.One of the things about the NHS is that it does still apply treatment free at the point of need, and despite the obvious rationing issues, I can't imagine a system here whereby people would be excluded from receiving a transplant if they had opted out of donating…

    WHat does everyone else think?

  21. It's not very unusual, but it's unusual enough.”Dangerous for you”, although a big part of it, isn't the only reason for asking you not to come back though.

    Part of it is that there could be an underlying reason for the faint. It would be bad to exacerbate an undiagnosed or pre-existing condition by repeatedly taking blood. And, whatever reason it is, could (you never know) be blood-borne.

    The other part is that when you hit the deck, a couple of nurses have to come and attend to you and make sure you're okay. And all the time they're doing that, they're not taking blood from other people. I forget the numbers, I think one nurse is usually monitoring three donors simultaneously? Donation sessions are only a few hours long and they need to be working at maximum efficiency.

  22. The efficiency had never occurred to me actually; thank you for pointing that out. Now I can feel less guilty about not giving blood “just” because I faint! I doubt the reason is blood borne (actually I think I was just slightly dehydrated!) because they said they would use the blood that I donated, just not to do it again.

  23. I enjoy reading your blog. As a result of this post, I followed the link and signed up. Thanks.p.s. re another post, 25k for what you guys do is an insult!

  24. Can't, people with M.E. aren't allowed to donate organs, blood or bone marrow”Really? Really? Why is that.

  25. Here's a suggestion for those of you who can't donate organs:Donate your body to science. I've been part of dissection classes and they perhaps aren't as bad as you think. There was no prodding of breasts or penises, no joking about – people are treated with respect. It's a rarity to get the chance to do a proper dissection (Unless you're a dentist in the north of Scotland studying where you get a full body to dissect, while us anatomy students in the West get a tiny dissection and that's it…not bitter at all!)

    For those interested ask your local university – it's worth consideration.

    I'm also now lacking 820,000,000,000 platelets. Exciting stuff

  26. Can't, people with M.E. aren't allowed to donate organs, blood or bone marrow“I suppose it's a mild improvement on the days when medics didn't even believe ME existed…

    I think the reason may be that there's no one clearly defined cause and no specific cure, and no real way of knowing how that would combine with the immune-suppressants that have to be taken to keep the organ from being rejected?

    Roll on the days when we can each grow our own spares in a glass jar.

  27. It depends – if you opt out for any strongly-held reasons then you would presumably not wish to receive a donated organ for those exact same reasons.I can't think of any single legit reason to penalise people who opt back in by making them wait a year before they qualify to receive though, that just seems petty and vindictive.

    In principle opt-out sounds okay, in reality I object to the idea that our government gets the default right to cut me up like a car at the breaker's yard, no matter how many lives it may save in theory.

  28. Excellent post Tom, reminds all of us that we can make a huge difference just by carrying a little piece of plastic around with 'Donor' written on it. I keep meaning to sign up to the bone marrow donors register as well.By the way, happy 5th Blogiversary and happy job-hunting. Have you considered doing a teaching qualification in something you enjoy like IT and then teaching? 🙂

    Another long-time reader,

    Liv xxx

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