LAST MONTH, a Wokingham woman received a life-changing liver transplant. Now she is urging everyone to speak to their families about their decision to opt-in or out as the new law comes into effect.
Reflecting on the success of her operation, Emmbrook resident, Eloise Laurent is aware how difficult it is to find a donor.
In just over two months time, the biggest change to organ donation in England will happen.
As of Wednesday, May 20 an opt-out system will be in place, meaning that all adults will have agreed to be an organ donor when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.
Ms Laurent spoke to Wokingham.Today about her plans to raise awareness for organ donation and liver disease, after a successful transplant on Saturday, February 15.
After being on the donor waiting list for three months, the 24-year-old received a call about a potential donation — for this she would have to travel to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham.
“You get a call in the middle of the night, the suitcases are always packed. I had three phone calls, so three trips to Birmingham before they found the right one,” said Ms Laurent.
“The first was too big for me, the second time they didn’t have enough beds and the third was too fatty.
“Once you arrive at the hospital you’re on a timer, the liver can only survive for so long without a body.”
Ms Laurent began experiencing symptoms at just 16, but by the age of 24 her liver had stopped functioning properly. The only option was a transplant.
“I had cryptogenic liver failure, so they don’t know what caused it.
“In 2019, I ended up at the Royal Berkshire Hospital because I had turned yellow, my body was shutting down,” she said.
Talking about the new law, she said: “I don’t know why they didn’t introduce it earlier. They estimate it will save around 700-750 lives this year, at the moment it’s only 200-250 a year. It’s so difficult for people to get an organ donor, ethnic minorities always have shortages.
“You’re given the gift of life. I called my new liver Denise, I got it during storm Dennis, so we called it Dennis but then we found out the donor was a woman.
“She was around 70 and looked after herself, which just shows.”
Even after the law changes, families will still be involved before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead.
“I just want to make sure people talk to their families, it’s so important,” she said.
“If they don’t know, you might not be able to donate. One person can save up to nine lives. I have a life now. I’m not yellow anymore.
“When I’m better, I want to start fundraising and raising awareness for organ donation and liver disease.”
Between 2018 and 2019, 21 people in Berkshire donated their organs for transplants after death. This resulted in 59 transplants.
As of January, there were 333,290 people across Berkshire on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
It is hoped that with the upcoming law change, more donors will be able to save more lives, after their own has ended.
Organ donation across England
Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The majority of people tell us that they support organ donation in principle, yet only around four in 10 have actually registered their decision.”
The law change is also being called Max and Keira’s Law — after Max Johnson, the 12-year-old heart recipient, who championed this law change, and his young donor, Keira Ball.
Max said: “There are so many people who are waiting, just like I was, for the call to say that a suitable heart, kidney, lungs or liver has been found.
“When you are waiting for a transplant, every day counts and I hope that everyone who hears about the law change will be reminded to speak to their family, so they know what you want.
“I am proud that when people speak about Max and Keira’s Law, they will be reminded to think of Keira, and I hope by remembering her in this way, that she will go on to help save even more lives than she already has.”
In 2015, Wales adopted an opt-out organ donation system. Jersey introduced the system in July last year and this Autumn, Scotland will be doing so as well.
To find out more, or to register your decision to opt-in or opt-out, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 303 2094.