Last month marked the first anniversary since England moved to an opt-out organ donation system of presumed consent, called Max and Kieras Law.
This significant change was implemented on May 20, 2020, to help save more lives across the country. Before the law change, around 80 per cent of people in England said that they supported organ donation in principle, but only 38 per cent had recorded their decision with the majority saying they hadn’t got round to it.
A 31-year-old woman from Pinner knows exactly what a difference organ transplant makes and reflects on this 19-years on from her life-saving heart transplant this month.
Emma Hilton, 31, was rushed to Northwick Park Hospital with an abnormally high heart rate at age 12. She said: “I walked into A&E with my mother and five hours later received the last rites after I went into cardiac arrest after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart.”
She was placed on life support for nine days in the hope her heart would recover but this was not the case. Emma was lucky enough to receive a replacement heart the same day after being placed at the top of the transplant list. She made a slow but steady recovery and went on to complete a university degree and even compete in the British and World Transplant Games.
Emma said: “My recovery was slow and harrowing but I left the hospital in the summer and continue to lead a normal life. I look back and think how lucky I have been to continue a normal life, the ability to finish school, college and university. To work, socialise and be able to compete in top-level sport at the British and World Transplant Games. This is all because a family I have never met, decided at the most horrendous time to give me a future.”
“I am pleased the opt-out law is now in place. It is a great way of promoting organ donation and it gives people the opportunity to have the conversation because unless it affects you directly, it may not be discussed.
“I believe if people could see how amazing the gift of life can be and understand how it can change a life it may encourage them to make that decision.
“Having a heart transplant has allowed me to live a normal life in which without I would have died aged 12. Organ donation is the bravest decision anyone can make and through the Transplant Games I have met so many people of all ages who are leading a full and healthy life all because of organ donation. If people could see how much a life can be changed through this gift, I think it may help them make that decision.”
“I am forever grateful for the high level of care I received at Northwick Park Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital. I am forever indebted to the NHS and all their workers who have and continue to care for me.
“As the years go by I still tear up thinking of how my donor and their family have allowed me to live. No amount of thanks will ever show my gratitude. I strive to live every day in honour of them as without them I would no longer be here.”
An NHS Hospital Trust Spokesperson said: “While most people agree that it is important to talk to their family about organ donation, it is less likely that they will have had this important conversation.
“Even though the law around organ donation has changed, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead. Sadly, many opportunities are lost each year because families don’t know if their loved one wanted to be a donor or not. Please don’t wait. Speak to your family about organ donation today.”
Find out more and register your decision by visiting NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk