Organ Donation: The gift of life is in your hands
Date: 01 November 2018
Rochester resident Gill Fargher wears many hats. A GP of 30 years, she has worked as a police surgeon, associate specialist at Heart of Kent Hospice and clinical assistant for HIV medicine among several other roles, and always alongside her commitments as a GP.
One position Gill had not expected to find herself in is that of advocate and champion for organ donation, a role that she has taken on since the sudden and tragic death of her beloved husband Tristan in January 2015.
“Tris was so full of life, he really loved living it”, says Gill. “His death was completely unexpected and a huge shock. He suffered a cardiac arrest at work and was in intensive care for 12 days before he died. He had no history of heart disease and no prior health issues.
“The subject of organ donation came up when I was told that he was going to die. Tris and I had talked about organ donation in the past and I knew what he would have wanted. It made the decision to donate his organs somewhat easier.
“My life was shattered but I know that because of Tris, four people have had their lives saved or transformed. We donated his corneas and kidneys.”
Since Tristan’s death Gill has devoted much of her time to raising awareness of organ donation. She has been the Chair of the Organ Donation Committee at Medway NHS Foundation Trust since December 2016.
“My focus is always about the recognition of donors, their families and their ultimate and selfless gift. Because without them, none of it would happen and we must never forget that.”
While there are 5,000 potential donors in the United Kingdom each year, only 1,500 – 30 percent – transpire into an actual donation. Considering there are more than 6,000 people on a transplant waiting list, this figure needs to rise.
“Family consent plays a huge part in whether an organ donation can actually take place”, says Gill. “Even if a patient is on the organ donation register, 40 per cent of families do not give their consent. This is often because they are not aware of what their loved one wanted, so that is why it’s really important to let your family know of your wishes, whether you are on the organ donation register or not. I am so grateful that Tris and I had talked about it.
“Since I have been involved in raising awareness of organ donation, I have had the privilege of meeting many amazing people. I have heard some incredible stories from both donor families and recipients. I will never forget the words of one young person who had received a transplant. In a letter to the donor family, they said ‘you didn’t just change my life, you gave me life.’
“I am immensely proud of Tris and what we did. The work I do is all about raising awareness and changing perceptions of organ donation. Even if just one person changes their view and signs up to the register, it can potentially save, or transform, the lives of many. If we can do that, I can think of no better tribute to Tris and every other donor and their families.
“You can quickly and easily sign up to the organ donation register online and please, when you do, have that conversation with your family.”
To sign the organ donation register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Medway Organ Donation Committee Chair Gill Fargher reveals her personal connection to the organ donor scheme, which helps save thousands of lives in the UK every year.