Save a life by being a donor in South Yorkshire

In need of lungs: Dad Michael Blackett has 'taken a turn for the worse' and is now needing a transplant.
In need of lungs: Dad Michael Blackett has 'taken a turn for the worse' and is now needing a transplant.

MORe than 200 people in South Yorkshire are today waiting for an organ donation - a simple operation to give them the gift of life.

These patients, 77 of them in Sheffield, have had their lives put on hold, relying on drugs and medical interventions to keep them alive until a match comes up.

This week, to mark National Transplant Week, The Star is telling the stories of those people in limbo, waiting for a kidney, a lung or a liver - and urging people to sign up to the NHS organ donor register.

New dad Michael Blackett, aged 25, is one of seven people in South Yorkshire awaiting a lung transplant.

Michael, whose son Corey-George was born just five weeks ago, needs two new lungs if he is to survive to see his son grow up.

“I’ve had cystic fibrosis since birth, but in the last eight months I have taken a turn for the worse,” said the Sheffield Council civil engineer, who lives in Birdwell, Barnsley, with wife Lyndsay, 25.

Doctors say it could be two years until a matching transplant comes up.

Last month, the day before Corey-George was born, Michael was summoned to the lung transplant centre in Newcastle with news a donation had been found.

“We got to the hospital doors and they said they had given the lungs to someone who was a better match,” he said.

“It was a bit of a kick in the teeth.

“It’s a difficult situation, because I realise someone has to die for me to get my transplant, but it means so much because it’s saving lives.

“You can do a great thing by signing up.”

Some 25 per cent of people in South Yorkshire are on the donor register - below the national rate of 30 per cent.

But even many of those who have signed up to the register never donate their organs, because their relatives do not know their wishes.

NHS Blood and Transplant say 41 per cent of people in Sheffield who want to donate have not told their family members.

Clare Jones, specialist organ donation nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said relatives often do not discover their wishes until it is far too late.

“Sometimes people find out family members wanted to donate their organs when they find a donor card in a drawer, or it is written in a will,” she said.

“By that point, of course, there’s nothing we can do.

“Our message today is it is really important that people talk to their family and friends and discuss the issue.”

The refusal rate for organ donation in the UK is one of the highest in Europe - 45 per cent.

Ms Jones said: “We never find that relatives who agree to organ donation of a loved one regret it - it is something positive that comes out of something very sad.”

* Tomorrow: the car mechanic who needs a liver donor