Organ donors can give the gift of life after death

Members of the Heart and Lung Transplant Association during a visit to the Circle of Life Garden in Salthill on Saturday. Sean O'Gorman from Tipperary, a heart recipient of nine years; Rosaleen Clasby from East Galway who received a double lung transplant earlier this year; Sally Whelan from Co Laois, a double-lung transplant of three and half years, and David Crosby from Cavan who also received a double lung transplant earlier this year. The garden commemorates the donor community and their families in Ireland and across the globe.
Members of the Heart and Lung Transplant Association during a visit to the Circle of Life Garden in Salthill on Saturday. Sean O'Gorman from Tipperary, a heart recipient of nine years; Rosaleen Clasby from East Galway who received a double lung transplant earlier this year; Sally Whelan from Co Laois, a double-lung transplant of three and half years, and David Crosby from Cavan who also received a double lung transplant earlier this year. The garden commemorates the donor community and their families in Ireland and across the globe.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets Emer Curran who has assumed a new role in promoting the vital importance of organ donation

When it comes to donating organs, Ireland has a pretty good track record. We’re ranked ahead of countries such as Germany and France, but there’s always room for improvement, as places such as Spain and Croatia show.

In Ireland, the number of organ donors per million people is 18. In Spain, it’s 36, making it a leader in the EU.

Specialists from Spanish hospitals were among a group of European visitors to Ireland last week, sharing their knowledge and expertise with some 40 colleagues involved in organ donation here.

The group visited UHG and Salthill’s Circle of Life Commemorative garden before returning to Dublin for a two-day conference.

It’s part of a campaign to increase the number of organ donors in Ireland to 25 per million people

That’s on foot of a 2010 EU directive which was introduced mainly because of Europe’s ageing population, explains Emer Curran, a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine who has been appointed as Clinical Lead in Organ Donation for the Galway University Hospital Saolta Group,

Emer is one of two new appointments made locally by the HSE to educate staff and the public about the importance of organ donation and to liaise with staff at Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI).

That’s the body that co-ordinates organ transplantation in Ireland. Based in Dublin, it’s the first contact point between Intensive Care Units countrywide and transplant surgeons in Ireland’s three transplant hospitals. Kidney transplants are carried out in Beaumont, hearts and lungs at the Mater and liver and pancreas transplants are done in St Vincent’s.

The other appointee in the Saolta region is Pauline May who took up the role of Organ Donor Nurse Manager last year, bringing extensive experience as an Intensive Care Nurse and Clinical Nurse Manager.

Donor Nurses have been in place across the HSE since 2015. This year, in addition to Emer’s appointment in the West, three Lead Clinicians were appointed in Dublin, and one in the Mid-West area – there will be an appointment in Cork next year.

It’s part of a campaign to create a version of the Spanish model although we can’t replicate everything they do as we don’t have the resources, Emer explains.

She and Pauline cover an area from Galway to Donegal, so the remit is large, especially since Emer’s role is part-time, but you have to work with the resources that are available to you, she says. There are seven hospitals in the area, five with ICU departments, which is where most donors come from.

“We’re not doing too badly, but we want to do better,” she says about organ donation in Ireland.

That’s where she and Pauline come in.

“It’s about educating everybody to make sure we are on the same page,” she says of people on the frontline of patient care.

Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland was established in 2014 by the HSE, and given responsibility for organ procurement.

The aim of the body, headed up by Galway man and NUIG graduate, Professor Jim Egan, a consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the Mater, is to increase the number of organ donors while ensuring care of patients, recipients and organs.

There are many reasons why it’s important to increase the number of organ donors, Emer says. Ireland has the highest rate of Cystic Fibrosis in the world and diabetes – a leading cause of kidney disease – is becoming more common. Ageing is a big factor. Also, our population has increased and that means increased need for organs.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.