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#NURSESHIFT: we discuss organ donation

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On Monday 20 February 2012 nurses, patients and healthcare professionals alike came together to talk about the hugely emotive subject of Organ Donation #OD.

In the UK between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011:

  • 3,740 organ transplants were carried out, thanks to the generosity of 2,055 donors.
  • Almost 675,000 more people pledged to help others after their death by registering their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register, bringing the total to 17,751,795 (March 2011). 

(NHSBT 2012).

However a large number of donors were unable to donate their organs due to circumstances that made it impossible for transplant to occur. This is why many more donors are needed for the chances of a successful transplant to become more prevalent.

@flipbriars is a husband and father to one. He attended the discussion on Monday as he is currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. The average waiting time for a kidney transplant is around 1110 days. He commented:

“Why any human being wouldn’t want to donate an organ that has become useless to them but can save the life of another human being is beyond me.”

The discussion then progressed towards the notion that Organ Donation is seen as taboo, as it can be associated with death, a subject that is often avoided - @caltwit asked:

“What is the way forward to breaking the taboo? Should this be in schools which can change mindset of people”

Along with @nursewallace1 who answered:

“I think organ donation should be introduced at secondary school.”

This was a very poignant statement, but evoked some questions that would need to be answered if children were to be taught organ donation such as, “Would all parents agree? Some parents may not want their child to know about OD for religious or cultural reasons.”

Subsequent to these palpable statements, @maria101 tweeted:

“The specialist nurse for organ donation should be speaking with family WITH dr not after them. #nurseshift

Which was reiterated by @nursewallace1 who tweeted:

“In a recent chat with tissue donation coordinator was advised, on follow up some families were upset that they were not asked! #nurseshift

Communication with the families was a key issue raised here. It appeared that because Organ Donation is seen as such a taboo subject, some families were not being asked or consulted about the prospect of their loved one’s organs being transplanted after their death. Perhaps we, as medical professionals, do not give families as much credit as we should, as @missseapeaches stated:

“The families I meet always blow me away with how they cope in such difficult times -not sure I’d be so composed. #nurseshift

Of course, the reason behind the lack of donors does not lie solely behind the theory that organ donation is taboo, as the problem would probably have been resolved many years and many lives ago if it had been so simple. The thought of having your organs extracted from your body once you are dead is enough to give Hannibal Lecta bad dreams. However, as @nursiedeb stated:

#nurseshift I have witnessed 6 retrievals. If I could tell people anything it would be how much dignity & care patients are treated with”.

Throughout the country, people every day will die because they were unable to receive an organ to help save their life. Someone will lose a son, daughter, husband or wife, uncle, aunt, soulmate… the list is endless.

This chat highlighted the significance of death being the one certainty in life, but in some cases a taboo and uncomfortable subject. We came together and discussed ways to promote and educate people on the subject, with @switchedonduhhh signing up to the organ donation register as a result of what she took part in on Monday evening. If one person can be inspired to donate their organs during an hour long chat, think of the many thousands that could be inspired to do the same through extensive education and promotion.

Perhaps you will donate after reading this article. Perhaps you will one day save the life of a human being who has a family, just like @flipbriars. Or maybe you will highlight the importance of organ transplantation to a patient or friend, who will then go on to save a life.

My #tweetofthechat this week goes to @switchedonduhhh, who tweeted:

“This chat has changed me, I’m now on the register! #nurseshift

Thank you all for your contributions and adhering to the NMC’s guidelines on social networking. Until next time! 

Mikey Whitehead @STNNurse_Mikey

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