A campaign by The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post has seen 13,000 more people join the organ donor register. Catherine Scott met one woman hoping to benefit.
Lisa Lee has been waiting for a kidney transplant for more than six years.
Three times a week, she spends four hours a day connected to a dialysis machine which, she says, is saving her life
But what mum-of-five Lisa, 50, from Bradford needs is a new kidney.
Every member of Lisa’s immediate family has been tested to see if they are suitable match to give her one of their kidneys.
“All my children, who are aged between 18 and 28, were tested and my daughter Charlotte turned out to be a match,” explains Lisa, who also has four grandchildren.
“They were preparing me for the operation to have one of her kidneys but we had to wait as I needed some treatment. But by the time I was about ready we found out that Charlotte was pregnant.”
Charlotte gave birth a few weeks ago, but she has to wait another two years before she is able to donate to her mum.
“I am so grateful to all my children. They all wanted to do what they could to help me. But it was my husband who was most upset that he couldn’t help me.”
Although Lisa’s husband, Mark, was a match for his wife, it turned out her antibodies would have killed his kidney if they had gone ahead with the transplant.
“He was devastated,” says Lisa. “We have been together 25 years and he just wanted to help me but in the end he couldn’t. But he has done the next best thing.”
Mark has joined the paired donors scheme in the hope of finding his beloved wife the kidney she needs.
Renal consultant at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, Dr Richard Baker, said paired donation had been carried out in the UK for three years.
“A donor and their recipient are put onto the register and then every three months a computer program is run and if possible they are matched with another pair. The operations take place on the same day. The donors will have their operation where they live and the kidneys will be transported to the recipients hospital.”
The couple know it is quite a long shot but ever positive Lisa refuses to let her situation get her down.
“I was mortified when I was first diagnosed,” she says. “I kept being sick and started to lose loads of weight very quickly. I dropped about four stone in as many month and so I thought I’d better go to the doctor.”
She was admitted the same day to Bradford Royal Infirmary and told that she had kidney failure.
“They said if I had waited much longer then I would have been dead. They said it was having my children which had shrunk my kidneys and then they had started to fail. It is devastating to hear. They told me that I would need to go on dialysis and they would put me on the list for a kidney transplant, but I am still waiting.”
Lisa is incredibly pragmatic about her plight.
“I do miss my old life and would give anything to have it back, but I also think I am very lucky to be alive. Not that long ago, before dialysis, I would have been dead. I am determined to battle on and not let it take over. I had to give up my job behind a bar which I really miss because I am very sociable, but the staff at St Luke’s in Bradford where I have my dialysis are amazing – they are most like family – and we have a real laugh.”
Lisa is one of more than 60 people waiting for a life-saving transplant operation in Bradford.
The new figures were revealed as the district was urged to back National Transplant Week (September 7-13).
Since July, The Yorkshire Post and its sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post have been running a campaign with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, urging people to Be A Hero and join the national Organ Donor Register after it was revealed that just 43 families consented to organ donation last year. There are more than 800 people in the county waiting for an organ.
More than 13,000 people have joined up since it was launched.
Across the UK there are 10,000 people in need of a transplant. Last year the number of people donating organs fell nationally for the first time in 11 years. The UK also has one of the lowest rates in Europe for families consenting to organ donation and in 2014/15 only 58 per cent agreed to donate their family members’ organs after they died.
“It seems to be a cultural thing,” said Dr Baker. “In Spain less than ten per cent of all families refuse to give consent for organ donation. If everyone signed the organ donor register and told their loved ones of their decision then that would solve the problem of people waiting on dialysis,” said Dr Baker.
Jayne Fisher, team manager for the Yorkshire Organ Donation Services Team and a former Bradford Royal Infirmary specialist nurse for organ donation, said: “Every day in this country, three people die in need of a transplant. Yet across the UK and Bradford, one in three adults haven’t considered organ donation or decided whether they want to be an organ donor.
“To save more lives we need more donors. To raise that number we really need everyone to understand the importance of not being complacent. We need to get to the point where organ donation is high on the list of important personal conversations we routinely have with loved ones.
“Reluctance to talk about organ donation means many healthy organs that could be donated aren’t used.”
To join visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk