The ripples of awareness spreading from an unprecedented drive for people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register are breaking down barriers – but there is still more work to be done.
That is the message from medics behind the YEP-backed Be A Hero organ donation campaign, which has already seen around 13,000 people sign up and give hope to some of the 800 people in the county awaiting a lifesaving transplant.
Now, after National Transplant Week last week, organisers are determined to give the campaign a further boost by getting businesses on board who can filter the message down to their staff that anyone can be a hero.
Before Be A Hero the likes of Akash Suryavansi, from Harehills, felt their chances of finding a donor organ were slimmer than ever.
The 17-year-old’s life consists of 12-hour days of draining dialysis after he recently joined the lengthy waiting list for a kidney transplant for the second time. The average wait for a kidney transplant in Yorkshire is 1,114 days.
He was born with polycystic kidney disease and had waited six years for a transplant when his mum Tina was found to be a suitable live donor after being tested for the second time. Earlier this year he was told his kidney was failing.
“He wants to be well again and has asked us the question ‘when does this get better?’ – he doesn’t remember what it was like last time,” Tina, 46, said. “The support for Akash and the campaign has been massive for us, we were so taken aback by the response we got and all the lovely messages.
“We were pretty much at a low when the campaign launched and that lifted us and kept us going, knowing the support was out there.”
His story was publicised in July, prompting a wave of social media support. Tina said people all over the world emblazoned Facebook profiles with the Be A Hero logo, while five strangers contacted them directly offering to be tested as possible donors for Akash. The teenager’s dad will again be tested to see if he can donate a kidney to Akash later this year.
His story is one of hundreds in Yorkshire, yet only 29 Leeds families donated organs last year as three people every day die waiting for a transplant.
Dr Catherine Penrose, consultant in children’s intensive care at Leeds General Infirmary, claims Be A Hero has helped loosen the British “stiff upper lip” when it comes to organ donation and has shown the faces behind the statistics.
She said: “Now we need businesses and the general public to be ambassadors for organ donation and keep the conversation going.”
Simon Flood, a clinical lead for organ donation at LTH, added: “It makes more people talk about it and from there the ripples go outwards.”
MAKE LIFESAVING DECISION TO SIGN UP
We’re urging residents to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register and become a hero.
To raise the profile of Be A Hero we’re urging workplaces and communities to support the campaign through anything from putting up a Be A Hero poster to hosting a superhero day. Supporters can also send #BeAHero messages of support to facebook.com/yep.newspaper or send their tales of organ donation via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.