One chance to get it right: Organ Donation Week

Angie ScalesThe death of a child is the hardest pain to bear; working for the last fourteen years with people, facing the death of a child, or adult loved one, has shown me the courage and strength that families can muster at the most difficult time they will ever face. I have witnessed bravery beyond words in decisions made to enable this time to be the best that such a sad event can be, whether it is a planned death or a more acute event.

As health care professionals, we work incredibly closely with families - but do we really know what their wishes might be? Options around end of life care are so important in giving families and children control over what affects them at this time.

We have a duty to families to ensure that all the options that could be considered are open to them. This includes when organ or tissue donation may be possible, or explaining sometimes why it may not be an option.

Organ and tissue donation can be considered by some an uncomfortable subject to discuss. Can anything be more difficult than being told your child will die? So many families speak of how the chance to give life to others through organ donation or enhance life through tissue donation has meant so much in their grieving process.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s specialist nurses work together with critical care teams in hospitals across the UK. They are trained to support families and have the expertise to discuss the options of organ and tissue donation in end of life planning and what this means practically to an individual and their family.

There are 6,395 people on the UK’s transplant waiting list, 178 of them children. They can face a long wait held in limbo awaiting a call.

Children waiting for a transplant often need organs that due to size can only come from other children or small adults. For a family facing the death of a child to make such a selfless decision to consider organ or tissue donation at the darkest moment of their lives can give a ray of hope, chance of life and a precious gift to another.

The benefit of organ and tissue donation is great, from both the donor family and recipient sides. Professionals should be able to recognise what the options may be, involve specialists and ensure families have the information they need at the right time to support the wishes of both children and their families. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times they will face, we only have one chance to get it right.

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