According to the NHS Blood and Transplant report, of the almost 7,000 patients currently on the UK’s transplant waiting list, 30% (about 2,000) have been waiting more than two years for an organ. Sadly over 500 of them have been waiting longer than five years – that’s more than 1,800 long days.
Waiting for an organ is a terrible ordeal, a nightmarish waiting game for those who need the organ as well as their family and friends.
There is no ETA
Many factors affect the wait for an organ transplant and the amount of time that you have been on the waiting list doesn’t make a difference, you don’t get closer to the top of the list the longer you are on it. Not knowing when, or if, the organ will arrive is a daily torment for the person in need of transplant as well as their family and loved ones.
There is no guarantee
Just because a person is on the organ donor waiting list does not mean he or she will definitely receive the organ that they need. Sadly some people do not survive the wait, the NHS reports that one in ten people on the national transplant list die while waiting for the organ they desperately need. For those waiting for an organ, and their family, this is a constant fear.
Simon Howell who was the focus of the documentary film ‘The Wait’ tells of his experience waiting for an organ:
My family and I are on a roller coaster and like a roller coaster I can’t see the twists and turns or how it will end. But a transplant would completely transform my health and all our lives.
There are false alarms
Even if you do get the call from the hospital that an organ has become available, it does not mean the surgery will certainly happen. Doctors would still need to carry out more tests to see whether the surgery would be suitable.
Transplant recipient Helen explains:
I didn’t get my hopes up when I received a call from the hospital in case it turned out to be a false alarm.
Life isn’t easy
To make it onto the transplant list, doctors have to evaluate how desperate your condition is and, when an organ is failing, there are usually some really unpleasant side effects that go with it. Very often the lives of those who are waiting for an organ are dominated by their illness.
For people waiting for a kidney, three to four times a week they need to go on dialysis which is hugely disruptive for their lives as well as their family members.
Those in need of a new organ are often sickly and fatigued and find it a struggle just to complete normal daily tasks like walking even a few metres.
Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, Sally Johnson, appeals to all to consider the gravity of the situation those on the organ waiting list must endure:
I’d ask you to imagine how you’d feel if someone close to you was waiting for a transplant; their whole life on hold, hoping someone will donate to save them. I’m sure we’d all hope an organ would be available to help someone we love – so shouldn’t we all pledge to be organ donors so more lives can be saved?