THE contribution of organ donors to improving the lives of others has been marked at the first ceremony of its kind in Scotland.
The families of donors gathered in Edinburgh yesterday to posthumously honour their loved ones in a special remembrance event organised by the charity St John Scotland and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).
Relatives received an award bearing the words, “Add life, give hope” during the ceremony at the City Chambers, which was attended by some of the 96 families receiving the honour.
Sir Malcolm Ross, head of St John Scotland, said: “I was at the inaugural ceremony for this award in St James’s Palace in London in September and I was both amazed and deeply moved by the pride the donors’ families displayed.
“With thousands of people in the UK in need of a transplant, we in the Order of St John felt it was important to say thank you to the families who gave permission for their loved ones’ organs to be donated so that others might live.
“These families are an inspiration to all. With around three people dying every day due to the shortage of organs, we hope their pride will encourage many more people to follow in their footsteps.”
Among those attending yesterday’s event were Bob and Margaret Gillies from Inverness, whose son Stuart, 22, died after being hit by a taxi in Edinburgh last year.
Mrs Gillies said finding out her son’s liver had been donated had given her some comfort while coming to terms with his death.
“Organ donation is something I believe in,” she said.
“Four months before Stuart’s death, my husband’s father passed away. My son said that if ever he passed away, he wanted his organs given away and his body cremated.
“So we knew what he wanted, which made the decision easier for us.
“I’m a firm believer that people should talk about organ donation. It’s something you don’t think is ever going to happen – that you’re going to bury your child – but I would advise parents to have that conversation.”
Between April 2012 and March 2013, a total of 1,212 people around the UK agreed to the donation of a loved one’s organs, which allowed thousands of lives to be saved or transformed.
However, there are still roughly 10,000 people in the UK in need of a transplant.
Even if a person has agreed to donate their organs after death, their family must agree for any donations to go ahead.
Sally Johnson, director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHSBT, said: “Losing a loved one is devastating to family and friends. We hope receiving this new award will mean a great deal to those who have lost someone close to them and also give them renewed pride in their decision to agree to donation. The decision to donate their organs is an amazing legacy. We want everyone to be proud to donate.
“Having a conversation about organ donation is vitally important, as we know that making a decision to donate a loved one’s organs is so much easier if you know what their wishes were.
“We would urge people to have that conversation with people close to them and join the 19 million people who have already registered their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register.”
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk, call 0300 123 2323 or text SAVE to 62323.
Case study: ‘He rubber stamped my decision from beyond grave’
WHEN Barbara Anderson’s husband was killed in a cycling accident last year, she knew she wanted to donate his organs.
Jim Anderson, 65, died in Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital after coming off his bike while out for a ride with his grandson in Bertha Park, Perth.
Mrs Anderson said discovering her husband had already agreed to donate his organs before his death had “rubber stamped” her own decision, even though the couple had never discussed the issue.
“I thought I would be away long before him,” she said. “His father was 89 and his mother 90 when they died. We had not really talked about it.”
The 67-year-old was among those attending the ceremony yesterday to honour Scotland’s organ donors.
Describing her feelings when she found out her husband had signed up to be a donor before his death, she said: “He was giving me permission – he was rubber stamping it”.
Mr Anderson’s kidneys were donated to two men, allowing them to come off dialysis. His widow said that had given her some comfort.
But she added: “I think it’s only starting to now because I was in such despair. I met him when we were 18 and we had been together for 46 years. It was love at first sight.”