Three women who live in the same village and each gave up a kidney have spoken about their experience to encourage more people to talk about organ donation.
Margaret Moylan, 61, donated to her sister while Sue Dadwell, 71, and Jane Shorrock, 84, all from Emsworth, donated altruistically to complete strangers.
Margaret said: “I donated in 2013 when I was 57, my sister had kidney failure for about six years and her kidney function was going down and down.
“We’re very similar and we’re both very close, we have the same blood group so it wasn’t a difficult decision to donate to her.”
She described the whole experience as ‘absolutely brilliant’, saying both her and her sister are fit and healthy and lead active lifestyles.
There are currently around 6,500 people on the UK transplant waiting list and last year, nearly 500 people died while waiting for a transplant, official NHS figures show.
Currently, anyone who wants to donate an organ after they die has to sign up for a donor card.
However, the Government is considering a move to the same ‘opt out’ scheme for England that was introduced in Wales in 2015 after growing calls for change.
Margaret, Sue and Jane said they were all hugely in favour of the change, which would almost certainly reduce number from the three people a day who die waiting for a healthy organ.
“We very much hope the law changes so people have to opt out rather than opt in,” said Sue.
“I would love to see finding out about organ donation more accessible, I think the problem is people don’t know enough about it, the same as how to donate blood which is so easy.”
Unlike Margaret, Sue decided she was able to donate an organ to someone she still has never met, after watching 82-year-old Nicholas Crace on the television, who had done exactly that.
“He was amazing and it totally inspired me, it made me realise it was something I could do,” Sue said.
“I had just had a positive health check and I’ve been very lucky in my life health-wise and I realised I could give something back.”
Like many who donate altruistically, Sue has never been in touch with the person who received her healthy organ. “I was told he is a man in his 40s but that’s all I know,” she said.
“I like to think of someone surfing on a beach somewhere, because the worse case scenario is it didn’t work.”
The three friends had never met each other prior to giving up one of their kidneys.
Margaret and Sue were put in touch with each other through a mutual friend and they are now part of a small group of local people who have donated organs who meet up.
“We call ourselves the squeezed oranges and we meet up regularly,” Sue said.
“The whole experience of donating is something I’d recommend someone thinking about it to look into, it’s been really positive for me personally,” she added.
The ‘squeezed oranges’ members are all people who have donated organs at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, including Nicholas.
It was at the group that they met Jane, also from Emsworth, who decided she would donate at the age of 82, again to someone she’d never met. “My son, in his late teens, had an accident which meant he lost one of kidneys,” Jane said.
“He’s managed just fine with one kidney all his life. He was 17 or 18 and it happened at school, he ran into an open door as I remember.
“So I’ve always been kidney aware, as it were.
“A while back I saw an appeal for donors, went forward and was accepted and the rest is history.”
Jane said she also went through extensive tests to check she was fine to undergo the surgery and donate.
Unlike Sue, she did thought have correspondence from the recipient.
“All I know is he was a man in his 60s in the Midlands,” Jane said. “I had a card from his family via the hospital to say how much it means to them, that they have got their normal family life back again instead of him having to go on dialysis.
“The last time I was in touch with the hospital I asked about him and they said all was going well with him.”
Like Sue and Margaret, she only has good things to say about the whole process.
Jane added: “I’ve managed perfectly well since, I don’t have any awareness that I only have one kidney.
“I cycle in the village, garden and live a perfectly normal life, absolutely I’d recommend it.”
Despite the law stating that organ donation decisions lie with the deceased, relatives’ wishes are still almost always respected.
Organs from more than 500 registered donors were not made available for transplant over the last five years because of family objections, increasing calls to stop ‘overrides’.
Margaret said: “I cannot believe that families are allowed to overrule a dead person’s decision, I think that’s morally wrong.
“I can understand the difficulty for parents when a child dies, but for adults, I think it’s about people not talking more about their wishes after they die.”
All three want more people to talk about the subject with their loved ones and want to encourage people to look carrying a donor card.