Cystic fibrosis sufferer Paul Woodward, of Seacroft, Leeds, suffered chronic breathing problems in his early twenties and struggled to walk more than a few metres. He was only expected to live for around six months before he underwent a transplant.
The double lung transplant was carried out at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle when he was aged 22 on September 20 1992. The operation was a success and Mr Woodward, 47, has competed in athletics and cycling events at British and World Transplant Games events.
Today is the start of Organ Donation Week and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is urging people to sign the Organ Donation Register as it relaunches its Be A Hero campaign, which is backed by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Around 100,000 Yorkshire residents have been inspired to signed the Organ Donor Register since the Be A Hero campaign was launched in July 2015.
This year, the campaign is seeking to increase the number of registered organ donors in Yorkshire by 50,000 in just six months.
The YEP will this week feature a series of inspiring stories of people who have spoken of their experiences of organ donation.
Mr Woodward said: “Anyone who has had a transplant will tell you it’s the best feeling in the world.
“It’s hard to put into words how you feel. I can’t thank my donor enough.
“It is so amazing to go from being so ill for so long to being able to live your to the full - it is like being born again.”
He added: “I was really ill before the transplant. It was a desperate situation. I couldn’t walk for any distance, I was on oxygen and was in and out of hospital all the time.
“The only person who you can’t thank is your donor because they have had to pass away just so you can live.”
Mr Woodward had been on the transplant list for eight months when he got the call from a doctor at Freeman Hospital to say donor organs were available.
Mr Woodward, who was told the donor was a teenage boy, was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Newcastle and underwent a 12-hour operation.
He went from struggling to walk a few metres to competing in athletics and cycling events at British and European Transplant Games.
He won gold in the 100m in the 2015 games held at Gateshead in 14.5 seconds. Mr Woodward also won gold medals in the 100m and high jump at the European Transplant Games in Finland in 2016.
Dr Gerard Meachery, consultant respiratory physician at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, said: “Paul is certainly one of our longest surviving lung transplant patients and is doing extremely well.”
Dr Meachery added: “Somewhere in the region of 30 per cent of people who need a transplant die whilst waiting either because a donor organ has not become available or, they have become too ill to undergo such major surgery. We hope raising awareness can help change that.”
Mr Woodward is set to take part in the 24-hour Be A Hero ‘Yorkshire to 50k’ cycling challenge in Victoria Gardens in Leeds city centre from 10am today.
British Cycling’s Head Sprint Coach Justin Grace, who received a liver transplant in 2016, and Team GB’s Katy Marchant were due to the launch challenge to get Yorkshire to 50,000 with pedal power
The challenge will see six static bikes powering a seven-foot-tall inflatable heart.
HEALTH chiefs have released new figures which show 197 people in West Yorkshire have died while on the waiting list for an organ transplant over the past 10 years.
NHS Blood and Transplant revealed the tragic number of deaths today at the start of Organ Donation Week as it urges people to tell their families they want to become donors.
A total of 67 people from Leeds and 25 from Wakefield have died while waiting for a transplant in he last decade.
NHS Blood and Transplant say hundreds of life saving transplants are being missed every year because families don’t know what their relative wanted.
Left to make the decision for someone they love, families often decide it is safer to say no.
The reluctance to talk about the issue is contributing to a deadly shortage of organs.
In West Yorkshire, there are currently 221 people waiting for a transplant. That figure includes 54 people from Leeds and 30 from Wakefield.
Last year in Yorkshire 246 families were asked about their loved ones donation wishes and 153 of them consented to organ donation after death.
A total of 115 people in Yorkshire donated more than 300 organs after death in 2016/17 so others might receive a life-changing transplant.
Last year, Leeds Teaching Hospitals asked 63 patients’ families about their loved ones organ donation wishes and 38 of them consented to donation after death.
Anthony Clarkson, assistant director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It’s a tragedy that people are dying unnecessarily every year in West Yorkshire waiting for transplants.
“We know that if everyone who supported donation talked about it and agreed to donate, most of those lives would be saved.
“This Organ Donation Week, tell your family you want to save lives. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference. It will also make things much easier for your family to make the right decision.
“If you want to save lives, don’t leave it too late to talk to your family.
“If you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant? Would you accept a life-saving organ? If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”
According to NHS Blood and Transplant a total of 1,852,919 people in Yorkshire, including 731,000 in West Yorkshire, are currently signed up to the organ donation register.
IT is quick and easy to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Simply visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call the NHS Blood and Transplant 24-hour-a-day donor line on 0300 123 23 23.
Letting your family know your organ donation decision will make it much easier for them to support what you want.
Anyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register, age and medical conditions are not necessarily a barrier to donation.
The YEP would like to hear from any readers who have been inspired by the Be a Hero campaign to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
We would also like to hear from people who are on the organ donor waiting list.
Please e mail: [email protected]