‘I CANNOT put into words the difference a new organ has made to my life.’
That is the message from a woman who had a liver transplant just weeks ago after a family decided to donate their loved one’s organs.
Lyn Lenaghan, from Hayling Island, is telling her story on being a transplant receiver as this week marks Organ Donation Week.
Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant today reveal 10 people in Portsmouth have died in the past five years while being on the waiting list.
Meanwhile, 15 people in the city received a donation last year.
In Hampshire, 135 people had their lives saved last year by a transplant but in five years, 77 people from the county sadly died while waiting.
Lyn knows how crucial a transplant can be after her life has recently taken a turn for the better thanks to her new liver. She is now calling for people to register as an organ donor.
The 67-year-old started having problems with her liver 12 years ago, caused by her diabetes. Her health progressively got worse and six years ago, she was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steato hepatitis.
Her malfunctioning liver meant Lyn suffered with internal bleeding, incontinence, anaemia, back ache and a build-up of fluid in her abdomen.
Last year, she was put on the transplant waiting list.
Lyn said: ‘I was overjoyed to get onto the transplant list as I felt like now was my chance to get my life back. The whole family was over the moon.
‘That’s the thing people don’t realise – it’s not just the person who needs the transplant, but their whole family that is affected for years and years before the operation can even happen.’
A liver came up for Lyn but due to her poor health, she was too ill to undergo the big transplant operation.
Lyn added: ‘That was a real low-point for all of us as we didn’t know whether another liver would come along in time. The danger that I would be too ill to have the operation was very real at that point.’
Husband Andy, a former Havant Borough Council councillor, feared his caring wife would not make it to another Christmas. But this summer, they were given another lifeline and a liver once again became available.
Lyn said: ‘It was about 2am and my granddaughter came bursting into the bedroom. She told me I had to go to London right away and prepare for a liver transplant which, at this stage, still might not go ahead.
‘I was so excited and could not wait to get there and get it done. The donor liver started working before the operation was even completed. I felt so much better almost immediately and things have been getting better and better ever since.
‘My diabetes is much better too but the best thing is that I can have my family life back.
‘I can’t put into words the difference it’s made – I feel like I’ve got my life back and the change has lifted a weight off my whole family.’
Lyn and her family are now urging people to sign up and become organ donors.
‘It really is the best thing anyone can do,’ Lyn added.
Andy said: ‘Obviously our family is very pro-donation, but our children’s friends and colleagues have also registered to become organ donors after hearing about Lyn’s story and that is all we can ask for.’
Tell us your transplant stories as part of campaign week
THIS week marks national Organ Donation Week.
NHS Blood and Transplant are trying to get more people to talk about registering to become a donor.
The theme for this year is Words Save Lives and, to show support of the week-long campaign, landmarks will be turning pink including the Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays.
The News is backing the message by running a series of stories from people, like Lyn Lenaghan, who have received a new organ to family members who have decided to donate their loved one’s organs.
Our stories will also speak to groups dedicated to supporting living donors and consultants from Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, involved in transplants.
As part of our coverage, we want to hear from people who have either made the decision to become a donor or have been on the receiving end of a transplant.
To share your story email health reporter Ellie Pilmoor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Change in donor law
THREE people waiting for an organ die every day across the UK.
To combat this stark figure, released today by NHS Blood and Transplant, people are being urged to join the organ donor list.
In Hampshire, 77 people died in the past five years while waiting for a transplant.
Now, the head of transplants in the NHS is calling for people to consider speaking about the issue with their families and registering.
Anthony Clarkson, interim director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: ‘It’s tragic that so many people from Hampshire have died waiting for a transplant.
‘What is shocking is that many of those lives could have been saved, had more families agreed to donate organs.
‘People are dying every day because some families are not talking about donation. We need more families to say yes to organ donation, so that more lives can be saved.’
Last month, the government announced that organ donation could be changed to an opt-out system by 2020.
Currently people have to register to be a donor but if agreed by parliament, the new law called Max’s Law means adults will be presumed to be donors unless they have specifically recorded their decision not to be.
The change is named after Max Johnson, from Cheshire, who was saved by a heart transplant. His search for a suitable heart was followed in a series of front-page stories in the Daily Mirror, as the newspaper campaigned for the change in the law.
The government said it would save up to 700 lives each year.
Mr Clarkson added: ‘We all know that organ donation legislation will change to a deemed consent system in England and Scotland in future years but the harsh fact is people are dying right now waiting for an organ and it will still be important for people to know your decision.
‘We don’t want people to die because of a fatal complacency that because you know you want to be an organ donor you presume your loved ones know it too.
‘Please, let your family know your decision and ask them if they want to be donors. Don’t leave your family guessing what you would have wanted to happen.
‘We know that many families feel enormous pride and comfort at knowing that their relative went on to save lives through the gift of organ donation.’