Transplant patient wants donation rethink

A WOMAN who has enjoyed a new lease of life since she had a kidney transplant 23 years ago is calling for a change in the way donors are handled.

Russell Claydon

A WOMAN who has enjoyed a new lease of life since she had a kidney transplant 23 years ago is calling for a change in the way donors are handled.

Teresa Driver believes the transfer of organs is so vital people should have to opt out of the system rather than in, and next of kin should not be able to veto a donor card holder's last wish.

The Waldringfield resident, now 37, spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals after suffering from renal failure in both her kidneys.

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After waiting for six months on the transplant list, the veterinary receptionist received a new kidney and has not looked back since.

But with only a limited number of donors able to offer the same life-changing opportunities to other patients, she is advocating a reform of the system, so people only speak up if they do not wish to give theirs when they are gone.

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Mrs Driver, of Newbourne Road, who went into Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital after a mysterious swelling was noticed by her parents when she was just six, said: “I think everyone should carry donor cards, it should be compulsory.

“You should have to opt out rather than sign in. It is so important everyone should have the chance to have a transplant.”

She said the current system was flawed in that someone could sign up to the register, but their next of kin could stop their organs being used.

“Everything that you want could be taken out of your hands,” she said. “At the end of the day they are not a lot of good to you when you're gone.

“At a time when everyone is emotional you are not going to want someone else's organs taken away but if you are going to make that decision (to be on the register) you should have that carried through.”

Initially doctors had been baffled at Mrs Driver's badly swollen body and she was sent straight to Ipswich Hospital where she spent the next three months before ending up at Great Ormand Street where they diagnosed Nephritic syndrome - a failure of her kidneys.

“They did not know how I got it,” she said. “Possibly through a sore throat, it was one of those things. The infection initially went down (for a few years) but it is still a mystery.”

After going into remission between the ages of eight and 12, her kidneys started failing again, forcing her to go onto the transplant list at the age of 13. She was then transferred from Great Ormand Street to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, which carried out organ transplants. She was given one six months after going onto the waiting list and is now forever grateful for the opportunity.

She said: “I was very poorly. I was just going to school in the mornings I could not make the afternoons as I was too tired. I did not eat properly as I was not interested in food.”

The 23rd birthday of her organ is on April 18 and to mark the occasion Mrs Driver, who has been married to Shaun for the past 16 years, is writing her first letter to the family of her donor, thanking them. She said she has tried to draft the letter many times before but found it difficult to write, especially as she had been a child at the time it was given and had wanted to block it out.

Presumed consent idea for organ donations gathering pace:

A parliamentary debate on the possibility of an opt-out system will take place in the House of Commons today after Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne put forward a private member's bill on presumed consent.

The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday gave their approval for a change in the system.

Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee, said: “While the BMA supports many of the proposals put forward by the Organ Donation Taskforce, we still believe that changing to a system of presumed consent will do even more to improve donation rates.”

He added: “At least one person dies every day while waiting for an organ transplant and it is essential that every effort is made to increase the number of donors available.”

Among the safeguards proposed, high profile publicity campaigns would make everyone aware of the choices. Consent to donation would only be presumed if individuals expressed no objection. Families would also be consulted and donation would not proceed if relatives would be seriously distressed.

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