Connor Diocese has designated November 30 Organ Donor Sunday and is actively encouraging parishioners to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Information and application forms will be distributed to everyone who attends church in the diocese’s 77 parishes on this special Donor Sunday.
Between April 1 2007 and March 31 this year, 3,235 organ transplants were carried out in the UK, thanks to 1,665 donors. Yet only 26 per cent of people have registered as organ donors.
The Ven Dr Stephen McBride, Archdeacon of Connor, who initiated the campaign, said: “The Intensive Care Unit is not the time to make decisions on organ donation. A hospital bed is not the place to theologise when someone is going through numerous emotions as they deal with the death of a loved one.
“This is a conversation I would encourage families to have around the table at the end of a meal or over a cup of coffee. By distributing the organ donor leaflets, I hope many people will take the time to think about how they can help their neighbour even after death.”
Eleanor Donaghy, regional transplant co-ordinator for Northern Ireland, said: “There will always be a shortage of organ donors. As technology advances and more people are considered suitable for transplant the demand continues to rise. Again, because of technological advances, less people are dying from serious inter-cerebral events and so there are fewer donors.”
She said organ donation can offer a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for a family coping with the death of a loved one. “It is something that families can cling to. They think of the deceased as someone who has helped others throughout their life and this is a way of taking away the futility of their death,” Eleanor said.
Avril and Clive Waller from Carrickfergus lost their 17-year-old daughter Lindsey in a quad bike accident in 2003. Lindsey carried a donor card and her parents agreed that her organs should be used for transplant. A four-year-old girl, a 19-year-old man and a 35-year-old mother are all alive today because they received Lindsey’s organs.
Avril said: “I feel Lindsey is still living on in other people. That’s why I would urge people to join the register. You may think you don’t want your loved one’s body desecrated, but the surgeons treat the body with utmost respect and over the years the peace and satisfaction you get from helping someone else to live far outweighs the bad feelings you experience at the time of death.” Avril will be speaking at morning service in her own church, Holy Trinity, Woodburn, on Sunday.
Ballymoney man Stephen Wilson is alive today because a 38-year-old Scottish man, who died from a brain tumour, had joined the donor register.
Stephen, 50, received a heart and lung transplant in August 2005. Before the operation he had been given only months to live. “I can play with my grandchildren now which means a lot,” Stephen said. “I am very privileged to be given this second chance and I now live to honour the man who died that I might live.”
He added: “He has given me the gift of life, and it is a remarkable gift.”
Angie Burton, Marketing and Campaigns Manager for NHS Blood and Transplant’s Organ Donation and Transplantation Directorate said: “We welcome the efforts of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Connor to raise awareness about organ donation through Organ Donor Sunday.
“Transplants are one of the most miraculous achievements of modern medicine but they depend entirely on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to make this life-saving or life-enhancing gift to others. By encouraging people to think about whether they want to be an organ donor and record their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register this campaign gives great hope to the 8,000 people currently in desperate need of a transplant.”
Organ Donor Sunday comes less than a fortnight after the Organ Donor Taskforce recommended the NHS continue with the opt-in system of organ donation, rather than implement a presumed consent or opt-out policy.
To sign up to the organ donor register online follow the NHS Organ Donor Register link on this website.