Pictured at the Donor Awareness Week national launch are Tomcy Baby, Heart transplant clinical nurse specialist, Professor Jim Egan, Director, ODTI, Niall Whiteley, a heart transplant recipient from Knavinstown, Kildare, Gerry Fitzgerald, a single lung transplant recipient from Tipperary Town, Robert McCutcheon, Chairman, Irish Heart & Lung Transplant Association, Susan Towell, Lung transplant Clinical Nurse Specialist, Tullamore native Val Kennedy from the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association.

Tullamore's Val backs Donor Awareness Week

Tullamore native Val Kennedy, now living in Portarlington, is backing Donor Awareness Week which runs until May 27. And he has a special reason to do so given that he underwent a successful single lung transplant in the Mater Hospital back in 2016.

Now he's giving back as a representative of the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association (ILFA) which since 2002 has been working to advocate for, and enhance the quality of life for those living with lung fibrosis, a life limiting condition.

Val attended the national Launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2023 by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which was held at the Mansion House earlier this month.

This year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign is built around the theme ‘Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt!’ #LeaveNoDoubt. The key message is that members of the public can play their part in supporting organ donation for transplantation by ensuring that their families are not left in any doubt about their wishes around organ donation, that is that they make sure to ‘have the conversation’.

Organ Donor Awareness Week 2023 is organised by the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) in association with the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI).

The key message is that members of the public can play their part in supporting organ donation for transplantation by ensuring that their families are not left in any doubt about their wishes around organ donation. i.e., they make sure to ‘have the conversation’. Sharing your wishes when you are in good health makes it a less stressful decision for your family in the event of them being approached about you being a potential organ donor.

At the campaign launch the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said: “Organ donation is a gift of a second chance of life. Raising awareness about the importance of organ donation is a critical part of the great effort we must make so that more people get this second chance.”

“This year has set a record for the number of transplants performed in the first three months of a year with 81 transplants. As Minister for Health, I am committed to increasing organ donation and transplantation rates in Ireland and to make organ donation ‘the norm’ where possible. Enactment of the Human Tissue Bill will be an important step to achieving this.”

Ms Carol Moore Chief Executive, Irish Kidney Association added: “Patients on transplant waiting lists live in hope that organs will become available to them and a strong public show of support by requesting organ donor cards builds that hope. The uncertainty associated with waiting for an organ transplant is difficult as the future is unknown and there is the knowledge that in order to be given the Gift of Life another family will be grieving the loss of a loved one,” she added.

“The end of year figures for transplantation last year offer encouragement and hope to people on transplant waiting lists as there was an increase in transplant activity with 250 organ transplants taking place in 2022, 44 more transplants than in 2021. The record 81 transplants in the first three months of this year offers further encouragement that we can return to or surpass the 5-year average (2015-2019) of transplant activity experienced pre-pandemic. It’s heartening also that as one of the milestones we mark this year is the 10th anniversary of the introduction of Code 115 on drivers licences, that without any promotional activity, more than 1.45 million drivers, almost half of all licence holders, have indicated their willingness to be organ donors.”

“We look forward to the Human Tissue Bill being transposed into law. It will allow for altruistic living kidney donation in Ireland, where the donor does not know the recipient. Currently such donors have to travel outside our jurisdiction to Northern Ireland or overseas in order to donate altruistically,” Ms Moore explained at the national launch.

At any one time in Ireland there are between 550 and 600 people active on waiting lists for organ transplants including heart, lung, liver, kidney, and pancreas. 250 organ transplant operations were carried out in Ireland in 2022 (44 more transplants than in 2021). This activity last year, in very challenging times with COVID-19, could not have taken place but for the generosity of the families of 86 deceased donors and 33 living kidney donors.

In 2022, 51 liver transplants and 8 pancreas transplants took place at St Vincent’s Hospital, while 10 heart transplants and 18 lung transplants were carried out at the Mater Hospital.

Last year, saw an increase in the number of kidney transplants taking place at Beaumont Hospital - 163 kidney transplants took place, of which 33 were from living kidney donors. There are 2,466 people in Ireland in end stage kidney failure undergoing dialysis treatment, but only approximately one fifth of these are on the transplant waiting list.

Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to share their wishes with their family and keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or to your phone, phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.