Organ donor plea as Belfast boy (3) awaits heart
The family of a three-year-old Belfast boy waiting for a new heart have urged people to talk as Organ Donation Week is launched today.
This year's theme for the week, which runs from September 2-8, is "Words Save Lives".
The family of three-year-old Daithi have organised a number of events to help raise awareness.
His father Mairtin Mac Gabhann said that they have been trying their best to "normalise the conversation around organ donation". He added: "Daithi has been on the routine transplant waiting list for over a year.
"We believe that 'Words Save Lives' and through sharing Daithi's personal story, thousands of people have joined the organ donor register.
"We are convinced that numbers will continue to rise by talking about organ donation. This journey can be horribly isolating and lonely at times, but knowing that there are people out there willing to give that gift of life does make a difference.
"Daithi is our inspiration and keeps us strong. We just want people to be open minded about organ donation and to have that conversation. Talking about organ donation and sharing your wishes with a loved one could one day save up to nine lives. We need people to talk and think about organ donation today."
A series of events are taking place this week, including the lighting up of buildings such as Parliament Buildings, Titanic Belfast and various local council buildings.
Many of these events have been organised by local charities and people who have either had a loved one who donated an organ to give the gift of life, have received a life-saving transplant, or who are currently waiting on an organ.
Around 45% of the Northern Ireland population have signed the organ donor register, according to the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency.
Monica Hackett, regional manager with the Northern Ireland Organ Donation Services Team, said that last year 46 donors and their families gave organs to 106 recipients, but stressed that more families needed to "agree to donation for more transplants to take place".
She added: "Our specialist nurses support families at a very traumatic time in their lives to discuss their views and feelings about organ donation.
"If you have never talked about organ donation, it can be difficult for your family to know what you would have wanted. We know that fewer families agree to donation going ahead if they are unaware of their loved one's wishes.
"I would encourage everyone to think about donation, discuss it with your friends and family and join the organ donor register."