We were really pleased to welcome two lots of speakers to our August meeting.
First we heard from Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation, Sylvia Crump, Izzy Derrick and Rachel Stone.
I think we all knew that transplantation of an organ or tissue can be life changing, however we do not really talk openly about death in this country and about our own wishes if we were to die.
If there was one thing we all took away it was the importance to have the conversation with your family and close friends so they are aware of what you would want.
Sylvia, Izzy and Rachael work for NHS Blood and Transplant and are based at Southmead. They explained the very specific circumstances in which a person needs to pass away in order to donate organs: in a hospital on the intensive care ward.
Age is not a barrier. There may be a reduced likelihood that organs can be used but if they are working then the organ donation team will try to find a matching recipient.
Here is some of the information they gave us about organs that are donated:
The Heart – a life-saving transplant for the recipient. The organ can be donated as a whole organ OR heart valves can be transplanted, often to help newborn babies.
The Lungs – a life-saving transplant for the recipient which, for example, it transforms the lives of young Cystic Fibrosis patients.
The Liver – there are two lobes to the liver and the small lobe can be donated by a live donor. It is also possible to take cells from the liver to help regenerate the liver in the recipient. This process has a very high success rate in children – around 88% – and can mean that they do not need to go on to have full transplant. As if that wasn’t brilliant enough, the cells can also be frozen and used for 7 years!
The Kidneys – a life-changing transplantation. For patients on kidney dialysis life is very restrictive. They need to attend dialysis sessions 3-4 times a week, must closely monitor their fluid intake and follow a specific diet. Those waiting for a kidney make up the biggest proportion of the waiting list.
The Pancreas – a life-changing transplantation. It may be the whole organ or islet cells from within it. Often used for patients who have very unstable diabetes.
It is also possible to donate tissue and the donors do not need to be on the ITU ward. Here is the information we heard about that:
Corneas – one donor could help between 2 and 5 people.
Bone/Tendon/Skin – all types of tissue transplant. Tends not to be so frequent but can be stored for some time and be used when there is a spike in demand, for example when there are traumatic events like the Manchester bombing.
Our second speaker was Edward Shephard who volunteers with Freewheelers EVS.
As a registered charity they are reliant on donations to run the out of hours service that they provide to the NHS.
Edward explained that like many of the riders, controllers, mechanics and fundraisers, he got involved because he wanted to give something back to NHS. There are around 120 volunteers in Freewheelers EVS, with approximately 80 of those riding the bikes providing the medical courier service in our region. Now part of a national network, they were one of first blood bike groups to set up.
The very first emergency volunteer service (EVS) was established in 1962 after Margaret Ryerson organised a courier service for small pox vaccines during the postal strike. Initially in London it extended to the South of England, although did not remain in place beyond the strike.
Nowadays Freewheelers EVS saves the NHS approximately 400,000 each year transporting blood, fresh frozen plasma, pathology samples, medication, x-rays/scans, patient notes, equipment, surgical tools and breast milk. In addition to this they also promote safe motorcycle riding.
The courier jobs are called through to the controller who allocates it to the volunteer courier on standby. The exception is a daily job supplying the air ambulance with the blood and fresh frozen plasma when their shift change takes place out of hours.
With a fleet of 11 motorbikes, there are 4 in operation every evening in the patch covered by the Freewheelers with volunteers undertaking 12 hour shifts (7pm-7am) Monday to Thursday or making themselves available from 7pm on Friday to 7am on Monday, unless of course it is a bank holiday in which case they carry on until 7am on Tuesday morning.
If you’d like to know more about the service there is a fantastic video you can watch explaining the difference they make every day.
Thank you to Edward, Sylvia, Izzy and Rachel for a very interesting evening and to the members who attended and asked lots of interesting questions.