When you’ve been given a second chance at life, why would you waste a minute?
Orla Smyth, who is a Transplant Games World Record Holder and the Chair of Transplant Sport NI, has given her full support to the Public Health Agency’s new campaign to encourage people to have the chat with their family about organ donation.
Orla previously was a corporate lawyer and now is the proud owner of a number of coffee shops in Belfast.
Orla had a healthy childhood until she unexpectedly collapsed one day at school when she was 11 years old. After being taken to hospital learned she had a problem with her kidneys.
Orla said: “I actually lived a normal life, played sport, travelled, went to university. It didn’t significantly impact on me until my condition deteriorated when I was 21. Dialysis was necessary so I had to prepare myself for that and then hopefully a transplant.”
Orla spent eight or nine hours each night on dialysis for almost four years, which was at times challenging. However in 2007 Orla got the news that she was going to receive a transplant. The operation was a success and once she recovered from the surgery the difference from being on dialysis to life with a new kidney was like day and night.
Orla continued: “I was very aware while I was getting my life back a family were losing a loved one. I have such an overwhelming sense of gratitude to my donor, but also to my donor’s family as ultimately it was their decision to donate their loved one’s organs. The strength and courage that family showed at such an awful time is why I am here today.
“People often say I run at a hundred miles an hour all the time and I feel I have to because I’ve been given this second chance, why would I waste a minute of it?”
Almost 140 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list and sadly nine people died last year waiting for an organ.
The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) Potential Donor Audit 2018-19 showed that 93% of families agreed to organ donation if a loved one had discussed their wishes and had joined the Organ Donor Register (ODR), but this drops dramatically to 51% if they have not. That is why knowing what a family member wants in the event of their death is crucial to increasing transplant rates and saving lives.
The PHA campaign places the focus firmly on the importance of having the conversation with family and friends so they are aware of your wishes which could make a very difficult time less stressful. The campaign also emphasises the key message that one organ donor can save or transform up to nine lives.
The campaign will be running over the festive season when family and friends are more likely to be together. For more information and to see Orla featuring in the campaign visit organdonationni.info