Organ donations law is changing - but this is why you should still talk to your family about it

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The number of people waiting for an organ transplant in Leeds is going up.

Although there are almost two million organ donors in Yorkshire and the Humber, there are still 74 people in Leeds and 259 people in West Yorkshire and waiting for a life changing transplant.
That's according to figures shared by Yorkshire’s dedicated organ donation campaign Be A Hero, to celebrate Organ Donation Week (September 2 - 8).

Mike Holwill has benefited from a cornea transplant.

Mike Holwill has benefited from a cornea transplant.

And one Leeds dad who has benefited from organ donation has spoken about how vital it is for people to share their wishes about what should happen to their organs.

The UK is changing from an opt-in to an opt-out system of organ donation next year, but families will still have a say should the worst happen to you.
Mike Holwill, 49, who lives in Cookridge, started to notice changes in his sight when he was 15.

He was eventually diagnosed with Keratoconus, a progressive eye disease which causes the cornea to thin and become misshapen, distorting vision.

While studying at university, Mike received corneal grafting on his left eye, giving sight back to his eye.

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In 2003, the father-of-two received a second corneal graft in Leeds, this time to his right eye.

He can now see partially through his left eye, while the vision his right eye is next to perfect.

"As a teenager you don't necessarily realise that sight is such a precious thing," said Mike.

"A cornea transplant isn't life-saving in the same way a liver transplant is, but without this I probably wouldn't have been able to work.

"I wouldn't be able to see my family as well, or read music."

Mike plays the guitar and trumpet and spends much of his free time playing music, including in The White Rose Concert Band and Tutti Community Band, based in Bramley.

He went on to train as a nurse and worked in intensive care at St James’s University Hospital before going on to work as a Liver Transplant Coordinator, where he oversees life-changing transplants taking place every day.

Many nurses take a similar route, but Mike said he was particularly drawn to it because of his experiences.

"I know what a difference it makes. I wanted to be able to give something back," he said.

Mike added: "If people believe organ donation is important then it is so important that people share their wishes with their families."

Dr Claire Tordoff, Clinical Lead in Organ Donation, said: “This year we wanted to start Organ Donation Week with a powerful message about the impact of family consent, and so the silent box symbolised the voices of people whose organ donation wishes have gone unheard.

"This reiterates the importance of having the #DonationConversation so that your family fully understand your feelings towards organ donation, meaning they can respect your final wishes, should anything happen.

“With the upcoming law change and proposed plans to introduce an opt-out system in 2020, whereby adults will be presumed organ donors unless they record their decision not to be, it’s now even more important to make your decision and share with your family as well as recording this on the NHS Organ Donor Register.”