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1,000 people with diabetes waiting for organ transplants

NHS bosses are calling for people to join the donor register as the number of people with diabetes waiting for transplants is rising. 

According to NHS Blood and Transplant, 847 organ transplants were received by patients with diabetes last year. 313 (37%) of these went to patients with Type 1 diabetes and 251 (30%) to patients with Type 2. And of the 374 kidney transplants received by patients with diabetes, 296 came from a deceased donor and 78 came from a living donor.

However, approximately 1,000 people with diabetes are currently waiting for a transplant across the UK, up 14% from last year, and of these, 82% (820) are waiting for a kidney, pancreas or islet transplant.

Sarah Jane Robinson, 47 from Bootle in Liverpool, received a kidney-pancreas transplant in July 2017 after waiting almost two years, as a result of her Type 1 diabetes. She is now concerned that one day, her two daughters, Kayleigh, 26, and Aimee, 24, who also have Type 1 diabetes, may need a transplant one day. She said:

‘I would ask everyone to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and make your decision known to family and friends. Organ donation is so important – you could just be living a normal life, getting on, minding your own business going to work, going on holidays, when suddenly you, or your child, or someone you love, could be told they are seriously ill and they need a transplant.

‘There are not enough words on this earth to describe just how grateful I am to my beautiful precious donor and her family. Their selfless, compassionate and loving deed has not just saved my life, but it has given two young women their life and mum back too.

‘Think about what you would do in that situation. If you, or a close family member, needed a transplant. You would say yes to the offer of an organ, then you should be prepared to give them yourself.

‘Please have the conversation with your loved ones and share your organ donation decision so your family knows what you want and can support this if organ donation is a possibility.’

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesman said there is a particular need for more people from black and Asian backgrounds to donate, as more than a third of patients waiting for a kidney transplant are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Often the best match is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity and sadly, many will die waiting due to a lack of suitable donors, the spokesman said.

Gemma Gayle, 30, from Wandsworth, who is black British, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged 11. However, it wasn’t until her twenties that she started to experience problems that ultimately led to her urgently needing a kidney and pancreas transplant. She said:

‘Dialysis made me weak and tired and it was super scary waiting for a transplant. Kidney problems tie you down and you feel horrible. It’s difficult doing anything day to day.

‘Thanks to my donor and their family I am now really well.  Since my transplant, I feel stronger and more energetic. I have got married, been able to go back to work and been on a long-awaited honeymoon to Japan and Korea. Life is great!’

From spring 2020 the law is changing to an ‘opt-out’ system in England, which means all adults will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.  However, families will still have the final say on what happens with their loved ones’ organs.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said families will still be told before their loved ones’ organs are donated. He said:

‘Even after the law around organ donation changes in England and Scotland next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead.

‘We urge everyone to register their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your family the choice you have made. If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation with our nurses much easier if they already know what their relative wanted.’

Click here to join the donor register.

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