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Why it's vital to tell family you want to be an organ donor

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, offers advice on helping donation campaign

If you are out and about this week and see a building which looks like it's turned a strange shade of pink, don't worry, its not that you're looking at the world through those rose-tinted glasses again - it's all to promote Organ Donation Week.

Pink is the colour of the Yes I Donate campaign, and this week marks the annual Organ Donation Week, which has three aims - promoting awareness around the life-saving power of transplants, encouraging people to sign up to the Organ Donor Register and encouraging people to make their loved ones aware of their donation decision.

Last year when we marked Organ Donation Week, I was hooked up to my dialysis machine at Daisy Hill and making all the arrangements to enable me to join my beloved Green and White Army by attending the Northern Ireland versus Czech Republic match.

What a difference a year makes. Now, post-transplant and free from the restrictions of dialysis, I'm making plans to attend this week's Uefa Nations League match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I'm predicting a 2-1 GAWA victory.

I am one of the very lucky renal patients who is able to make future plans thanks to receiving a kidney transplant from Mum in March. However, while I am lucky, others remain waiting for the phone call that will change their lives. It is for those people that we need to continue to focus on promoting organ donation, which shows that there is light in the darkness and that the beacon of hope remains brightly burning.

Those who keep the flame alive are true heroes in my eyes, and I want to give a big shout out to everyone who abseiled down the Europa Hotel on Sunday to mark the beginning of our special week. I mentioned this special fundraising event in my column last week and how many would be descending while wearing superhero costumes. What an amazing way of helping to raise awareness. Well done to everyone who took part.

The beautiful Castle Ward Estate, where Games of Thrones was partly filmed, will be the place to be on Sunday as kidney recipient Stephen Nicholl and his wife, Christine, are hosting a horse ride and dog walk in aid of Kidney Care UK and the NI Kidney Patients Association.

Christine and Stephen have been working extremely hard to promote Organ Donation and give back to fellow kidney patients, and I wish them and all their riders and walkers every success for Sunday. The event begins at 10am, with the last riders going out at 2pm.

If you are reading my column today and you haven't as yet had that conversation, please think about sitting down and having a chat this week. It really makes what can be a very difficult situation much simpler when loved ones know the decision and can help to honour your wishes.

Staggeringly, NHS Blood and Transplant, which co-ordinates Organ Donation Week, has confirmed that, whilst the amazing public support for organ donation stands at 80%, only 33% have told their families their wishes. Imagine how much easier it would be for families who are asked that question if they were already armed with the knowledge of what their loved one wanted.

That would have the effect of making a reality many of the close to 3,000 potential transplants which don't happen each year because families said no to donating their relatives' organs. It must be about ensuring that wishes are honoured, but having that conversation is crucial in that process and has the power to save even more lives through transplants.

So this week please spare a thought for those waiting on the phone call that will save their lives. Ask yourself the question if you have it in your power to increase the likelihood of them receiving that call and realising that dream of a new life.

Belfast Telegraph

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