‘I’m living proof it saves lives’ – Suffolk liver transplant survivor in organ donation plea
- Credit: Su Anderson
A liver transplant recipient from Suffolk is speaking out as new data reveals just 40% of people are signed up to donate in the county.
Not a day goes by when Michelle Mitchell, from Felixstowe, isn’t thankful for the gift she was granted by her organ donor.
The mother-of-two had a liver transplant at Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital in 2014, after being diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis, which causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue.
She was speaking as latest figures from NHS Blood and Transplant revealed more than 60% of people in Suffolk are not signed up to the organ donor register, based on latest population estimates.
That’s compared with fewer than half (46%) of people on the register in Essex, as of May 2018.
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“I’m living proof that organ donation saves lives,” said 57-year-old Michelle, who recently took home gold in the World Transplant Games.
“These figures are lower than expected, and I can’t express how vital it is to sign up.
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“I had a lifesaving transplant and was given only weeks to live.
“But before my transplant, although I was on the register and gave blood, I hadn’t given it much thought. Once an organ had saved my life, it was a totally different ball game.”
She added: “Having that important conversation takes the pressure off relatives. When people are grieving they’ve got enough to think about, let alone making that massive decision.
“So I guess my message is to have that conversation and make a real difference to someone’s life.”
Just one in five people have signed up to the organ donation register in the Forest Heath district, giving it one of the lowest rates in the UK.
Nationally, 40% of people in the UK were signed up as of May this year.
The second lowest figure for our area was Ipswich, where 37% of people are signed up to donate their organs.
Ipswich Hospital medical director Crawford Jamieson said: “It’s all about starting that conversation and doing it sensitively.
“People don’t shy away from talking about their will, but they do about organ donation.
“We also need to encourage younger people to talk about it more.
“We have a great team here at Ipswich, and at Colchester, who are there to answer any queries.”