Yorkshire’s Be A Hero campaign, led by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, launched the ‘Organ Donation Conversation’ at Leeds’ Victoria Gate shopping centre, in a bid to encourage passers-by to sit on the ‘Conversation Couch’ and discuss their wishes with their loved ones.

Organisers of the campaign are highlighting the importance of the ‘Organ Donation Conversation’ as in 2017/18, 318 people in Yorkshire and the Humber received a life-changing organ from a donor, while in the same time 34 people sadly lost their lives while waiting for a transplant.

The Be A Hero ‘Conversation Couch’ welcomed hundreds of people at the event to talk about organ donation, to increase sign ups to the organ donor register and most importantly, to encourage people to have discussions with their family about each other’s final wishes.

Clinicians and SNODs (Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation) were present throughout the all-day Be A Hero event, along with Yorkshire residents who have consented to organ donation after the loss of a loved one, Karen Piotr, from Bradford and, Mahmud Nawaz, from Barnsley. They were joined by transplant recipients, Mark Smith from Harrogate, Akash Suryavansi from Harehills, and two-year-old, Harry Keenan from Pudsey.

Karen Piotr, from Bradford, has experienced first-hand how discussing organ donation can provide support during an incredibly difficult decision.

When Karen’s husband, Mark, died suddenly she knew that he would want to donate his organs. By understanding Mark’s wishes Karen was able to give her consent quickly which helped eight others, including a well-known artist from Sheffield, Pete McKee.

Mrs Piotr said: “You really have got to have the conversation with your family because at the end of the day the decision comes to you as next of kin. If I hadn’t given my permission, then Mark wouldn’t have been an organ donor.”

In the event of the loss of a loved one, families will be asked to make the decision to consent to organ donation, even if the deceased was registered as an organ donor. Increasing family consent can increase the number of transplants and ultimately, dramatically transform and save lives of those on the waiting list.

Across the UK, more than 1,000 families decline to donate the organs of a loved one every year, even if their family member has consented to donate after death.

Family consent rate from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has increased from 62% in 2016/17, to 76% in 2017/18, however there are still 483 people in Yorkshire and the Humber awaiting a transplant as of the end of March 2018.

The topic of consent rates is high on the political agenda with a consultation underway to consider the potential of following in Wales’ footsteps and moving towards an ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation. The Be A Hero campaign hopes that by launching the ‘Organ Donation Conversation’ it can reinforce the importance of family consent in Yorkshire to help improve the number of transplants.

Dr Catherine Penrose, Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, says: “Last August, we challenged the people of Yorkshire to reach 50,000 more sign ups to the organ donor register for the region, and we achieved this target in 5 months. This was a huge success for the campaign, and now we want to continue spreading the message and encouraging people to have the ‘Organ Donation Conversation’ with their loved ones.”

“As doctors we approach the families of people who are coming to the end of their life and in a position to donate. In Yorkshire as a whole 4 out of 10 families refuse permission to consent, so it’s vital to share your wishes with your loved ones.”

To find out more about organ donation, please visit;

www.leedsth.nhs.uk/be-a-hero

You can also sign up to the donor register by calling 0300 123 23 23.

You can make a charitable donation to the Be A Hero campaign, which raises awareness of organ donation within Yorkshire, by visiting;

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bahy1

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