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Want to be a hero and save lives? Donate!

ORGAN DONATION, a crucial aspect of saving lives, is an area which the NHS aims to get more signatures from the black community, and has initiated the NHS Blood and Transplant’s (NHSBT) campaign to help achieve this.

According to NHS figures, eight percent of patients awaiting organ transplants are of African-Caribbean origin, however, only 0.4 percent of registered donors are from the black community.With such a large disparity between supply and demand, the NHS has enlisted the help of celebrities to spread the word of the importance of donating organs. Personalities Alison Ham-mond, Ainsley Harriott, Tim Campbell, Ricky Whittle and Gina Yashere have been recruit-ed to raise awareness.

WAITING

TV chef, Ainsley Harriott, famous for hosting BBC show, Ready Steady Cook, said: "Organ donation is an issue most people don’t consider until someone they love becomes ill and needs a transplant. Or people think about it but don’t get round to actually signing up. Please let today be different - join the NHS Organ Donor Register and you could help to save or transform the lives of up to nine people."

As of January 19, 2012, there were 7,652 people in the UK on the active waiting list, and of those, 1,855 were from the black and Asian community. Surprisingly, age is no barrier to being an organ or tissue donor, and neither are most medical conditions. Citizens in their 70s and 80s have donated and saved numerous lives, the oldest recorded being a cornea donor who was 102.

NECESSITY

The case of Jane Dalton-Brown, who was from Purley, Croydon, illustrates how even when one life ends, other lives are given renewed hope. Jane tragically died after being hit by a truck, however, she fulfilled her wishes as a registered donor when her organs were used to transform the lives of people she never met. Her brother, Lloyd, said the decision to donate was made much easier because he knew it is what his sister wanted.

"It’s such a devastating time when you lose someone. It is so important that the black community are aware of organ donation. Very few donate their organs even though there is such a long waiting list of patients desperately needing them."

Daina Moyo, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation at NHSBT, underlined the necessity of more black people registering to become donors: "The message is quite simple – more black patients will have the opportunity to receive a life-saving transplant if more people from those communities join the Register.

"Transplants can be carried out between people from dif-ferent ethnic groups, but an organ is more likely to be a close match, and as a result a transplant is much more likely to be successful, if the donor and recipient have the same ethnic origin. Becoming an organ donor means that you could help save or enhance up to nine lives."

The figures highlight the urgency of the situation: people from the black community often wait up to 30 percent longer for an organ transplant than the general population, due to insufficient suitable organs. And since black people are more susceptible to illnesses like diabetes, kidney and heart disease, the need for the right organs for live saving transplants could not be greater.

One could take to heart the Tibetan saying, "Tomorrow or the next life – which comes first, we never know", when thinking about donating. Hesitate to register and you may miss the opportunity to give the gift of life after yours has passed.

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