Cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott OBE has revealed how his battle with cancer and possible paralysis has given him a fresh outlook on life, and organ donation.
In an exclusive interview with the YEP, the 74-year-old has spoken of how he has had to overcome an as-yet-unpublicised AV fistula that threatened to leave him in a wheelchair in recent years and has recently joined the NHS Organ Donor Register.
The straight-talking former England and Yorkshire cricket captain claims multiple bouts of ill health have given him an appreciation of how “precious” life is, prompting him to front Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s (LTH) Be A Hero organ donation campaign.
The AV fistula, an abnormal connection between a vein and artery that can damage the spine, was his second major battle after his fight with tongue cancer in 2002, in which doctors told him he would die within three months if he rejected radiotherapy treatment.
Boycott, who has been joined in supporting the YP-backed campaign by current Yorkshire and England batsman Joe Root, explained that he was approached by the hospital trust but felt he could not get involved as he wrongly assumed he would not be eligible to donate.
“I’ve always believed in organ donation but I’ve never joined [the register] because I thought my body’s not worth keeping for anybody. It’s had so many illnesses and accidents,” he said.
“I had cancer of the tongue, I lost my spleen when I was 10, I had an AV fistula that nearly left me paralysed when I was in South Africa a few years ago.
“I thought at my age, I’m 74, I thought nothing I’ve got’s worth giving. I said I can’t front your campaign if I’m not a member myself.”
After he initially rejected the chance to front the campaign organisers got him in touch with a doctor, who insisted he is eligible to donate.
There is no age limit on joining the register although some organs and tissue, such as corneas and heart valves, are only suitable for donation up to a certain age. Cancer survivors can also donate as long as any cancer has not spread in the 12 months before their death.
Be A Hero was launched after it emerged that just 114 people in Yorkshire donated organs last year as around 800 desperately ill people in the county await lifesaving transplants. Three people in the UK die every day waiting for a transplant.
Fitzwilliam-born Boycott is now urging others to follow in his footsteps and sign up.
He said: “A lot of doctors and people have helped me, I’ve had problems from time to time and I just think life is so precious and people need to realise it. Until something happens, like when I had cancer 12 years ago, you don’t realise that it’s just the luck of the draw. People put themselves out and luckily I survived.”
He added: “If there’s anything I can do to help anybody else when I’m gone I will – we should all look at it like that.”
Yorkshire’s England batting star Joe Root, who is currently away on Ashes duty, has also pledged his support. He said: “Every one of us has the ability to save lives through the simple act of signing the donor register.”
Earlier this week it emerged that the number of people who have donated organs has dropped for the first time in 11 years, making Yorkshire’s Be A Hero call all the more relevant.
Dr Simon Flood, clinical for organ donation at LTH, said he is “delighted that Yorkshire’s own sporting heroes Geoffrey Boycott and Joe Root are batting for us”.
BE A HERO AND SIGN THE REGISTER
We’re urging Yorkshire residents to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register and become a hero.
To raise the profile of Be A Hero the YEP is publishing regular stories on all sides of organ donation, while backing communities to support the campaign through anything from putting up a Be A Hero poster to hosting a superhero day. You can tweet messages of support to @Leedsnews and @LTHTrust using the hashtag #BeAHero, or email your donation stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on our coverage search #BeAHero on yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk or to sign the register visit leedsth.nhs.uk/be-a-hero.