A wee chat could save up to seven lives

Stuart Munro and his family
Stuart Munro and his family

By saying the seven words, ‘I’d like to be an organ donor’, up to seven lives can be saved.

Although Scotland has the highest percentage of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register in the UK, talking about your organ donation wishes can make all the difference.

Over the last five years, almost two thirds of people who donated their organs in Scotland weren’t actually on the Register at the time of their death.

So it’s important to consider your wishes and let loved ones know what you want to happen to you. It could mean the world to the 600 people in Scotland currently waiting on a life-saving transplant.

Aberdonian Stuart Munro had his life saved by the generosity of his donor. The 38 year old was hit with a devastating blow when he was diagnosed with a renal condition which caused his kidneys to fail and eventually shut down, aged just 22.

Diagnosed with IgA nephropathy after a routine medical, Stuart went from feeling healthy to facing the prospect of a kidney transplant.

Stuart said: “I was told that my kidneys were likely to fail within the next six years. It was a huge shock. I had gone from feeling perfectly fine to being told that my life was about to change dramatically in such a short space of time.”

Stuart was placed on the waiting list for a new kidney, and by the age of 28, he was on dialysis. He had to have an operation to get a fistula in his arm in order to enable haemodialysis, a process in which a patient is connected to a machine to clean and filter their blood. Stuart had to go to hospital three times a week for almost five hours at a time for dialysis.

Stuart said: “The long hospital visits meant that I obviously couldn’t work offshore anymore, so I had to leave my job. It was a really tough time.

“Eventually I changed to peritoneal dialysis, meaning I didn’t have to go to hospital quite so frequently, but I did have to exchange fluids myself four times a day through a catheter inserted into my peritoneal cavity. I also got a new job with a very supportive employer who adapted my office so I could exchange fluids easily at work. However, despite these positive changes, working and being on dialysis was exhausting and my health was still very much in decline.”

In May 2007, four and a half years after being placed on the waiting list for a new kidney, Stuart received the all important phone call.

He said: “It was one in the morning when I got the call. I was told that there was a kidney, which could potentially be a good match. I had to get to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh as soon as possible. My partner Leanne, my one-year old daughter and I all bundled into the car and drove straight down.

“I was so relieved when I was told the transplant could go ahead. By mid-day I was heading into surgery.”

Stuart spent a total of two weeks in hospital recovering from his successful kidney transplant, making a full recovery. Stuart and Leanne went on to have a son, who is now aged four.

He said: “I felt better almost immediately. I really noticed a drastic difference. It’s so good to be able to do simple things again that most people take for granted like go swimming with my kids and go on family holidays. I could never have enjoyed this before, as I had to be constantly prepared to rush to hospital in case a kidney became available. It’s made a huge difference to my life.”

Stuart is using his experience to help others, and has sponsored the junior football team his friend manages, to help raise awareness. The team of 9-11 year olds now play with the organ donation logo on their strip to help spread the important message.

Stuart added: “Regardless of their age, people need to be discussing their organ donation wishes with loved ones as ultimately it can save lives. If it encourages the boys on the team to think about the issue or discuss it with their parents when they wouldn’t have otherwise, then that’s a good thing.

“I’m extremely grateful to have a second chance at life, and if this helps change someone else’s life for the better, then I’ll be happy I’ve done my bit.”

Everyday, three people in the UK die every day waiting on a transplant.

It only takes a couple of minutes to have a chat with your loved ones. Make time for it today.

To find out more about organ donation and to join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonationscotland.org