A lifesaving gift is on the Christmas list of thousands of people this year
More than 6,000 people are facing Christmas on the waiting list for an organ transplant, with 90% waiting for a kidney.
Families are being urged to share their organ donation decision this festive season so that their loved ones know what they want when they die, and more patients can receive the transplants they need.
Keith Buckley, aged 74, from Nottingham, died in December 2015 after falling off a ladder while putting Christmas lights up at his home. Sadly, the retired officer had suffered a devastating head injury, but his kidneys helped two people. His daughter, Jane Stubbs, is facing her fifth Christmas without him but gains comfort from the fact that he saved lives by becoming an organ donor.
Jane, from Nottingham, said: “It was unexpected and was absolutely devastating. I never imagined something like that would happen to my dad. You think they are invincible. It was the last thing we thought we would have to be dealing with at that time of the year. There is never an easy time to lose someone, but Christmas just seems even worse.
“Something positive had to come out of something so tragic and it was what my dad wanted. My dad had never talked about organ donation or dying but I wish we had talked about it. He had already signed up to the organ donor register, but I wonder if he ever thought it would apply to him?
“You just want to make sure you are doing what he wanted, and I would not have gone against his wishes. There is nothing to fear by allowing your loved one to be a donor. Our experience was amazing. The hospital staff were so caring and compassionate. Nothing was too much trouble. They made the whole thing more bearable.
“Both of his kidneys were used, and two people received those. I hope they spare a thought for my Dad and for us and raise a glass or two to his memory. I hope they make the most of every day. It makes me feel proud knowing my Dad helped them to live. I don't want them to feel guilty though - I know some recipients do - just carry on living.
“You try and focus on the positive happy memories, but it is hard. I miss him so much. We never got to say goodbye or tell him how much we loved him. As a family we will spend time together this Christmas. Life goes on. I love to talk about him and tell everyone how proud I am of him.
“Family at Christmas was very important to my Dad. He liked to have the family around him at that time of year. It was an opportunity for us all to come together, to have a laugh, and make some happy memories. He absolutely doted on his two grand-daughters. We love to talk about our family Christmas memories, particularly when I was a child and the things we used to do.
“I would urge everyone to have the conversation and to make sure they sign up to be an organ donor. If your loved one agrees to donate their organs make sure that you abide by their decision when they pass away. It's not about your needs, it's about what they wanted to do. I fully support the new legislation - most people would expect or demand to receive an organ if they or a loved one needed one. You should therefore be prepared to donate.”
From spring 2020 in England and Autumn 2020 in Scotland, the law around organ donation is changing. All adults will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate, known as ‘opt out’, or are in one of the groups not covered by the new organ donation law.
In the lead up to the change in law, NHS Blood and Transplant is urging families to talk and share their decision. If the time comes, families find the organ donation conversation much easier if they already know what their relative wanted.
Join the NHS Organ Donor Register www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Get our e-newsletter
Stay up to date with our kidney research news, events and ways to get involved.