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September 26, 2022

Organ Donation Week: Bolton NHS employee opens up about life-saving transplant

  • 11 transplant patients have lives transformed thanks to Royal Bolton Hospital
  • NHS Blood and Transplant urge families to have conversation about donation
  • Bolton physiotherapist shares experience of transplant 26 years on

On Organ Donation Week, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust is urging families to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register to help save lives.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, 11 patients had their lives transformed by an organ transplant, including kidney, heart and lung, thanks to Royal Bolton Hospital.

Organ Donation Week 2022 (26th September – 2nd October) highlights the life-changing impact transplants can have on thousands of people’s lives every year.

26 years ago Robert Hodgkiss, a Specialist Physiotherapist at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, was gifted a second chance at life after a successful heart transplant.

Robert knows first-hand why every potential donor is so precious:

A few months after my daughter was born I started to get very out of breath and had swollen legs, and the hospital found I was in heart failure.

“I ended up having a heart attack and stroke on the ward and I was told the only way I would survive was with a heart transplant.

“Within eight weeks of being admitted with what was thought to be a chest infection, I was discharged with a new heart two weeks before my daughter’s first birthday.

It was an incredibly emotional time for Robert and his new family, and more than two decades on he struggles to think about how it could have ended much differently.

To imagine a world where the past 26 years didn’t exist, my son would never have been born, my wife would have been left with a newborn baby on her own.

“I was incredibly lucky to have got the transplant, even now one in three people die on the waiting list.”

“My goal at the time of transplant was to live long enough for my daughter to remember me, and she is now just about to finish her doctorates at university. It’s all about being able to witness those milestones.

‘Making the most of the chance you have been given’

Robert’s gone on to live a healthy life full of new experiences and adventures, including retraining as a physiotherapist and competing in transplant sport competitions around the world.

At the last games in Italy I won five gold medals, but it’s more about promoting that you can have a normal and fulfilled life after a transplant.

“It’s not about glory but showing the world that you can go on to do things. It gave me a focus to train and get fit and healthy again, making the most of the chance you’ve been given.

Robert has a simple message as the UK marks another Organ Donation Week with the theme ‘Leave Them Certain’.

Under the new opt-out system, it’s still really important that your family knows where you stand on donation as the final decision lies with them.

“If your family don’t know your wishes then we risk losing potential transplants, so please have that conversation with your loved ones and leave them certain.

Nationally, around 7,000 people are currently waiting for a life changing transplant, including more than 200 children.

Adults and children can each save up to nine lives by being an organ donor and improve many more lives by donating tissue too.

Suzanne Lomax, Bereavement Nurse and Clinical Service Lead at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said:

We know talking about what happens after death isn’t always easy, but it’s really important we tackle that taboo so that we’re certain on a loved one’s organ donation wishes.

“It’s not being morbid, the conversation is a really positive act as it could go on to save and transform lives of others.

“I’m so proud of the work we’re doing here at Bolton to open up that conversation, and to support NHS Blood and Transplant with vital organ donation referrals.

People can show their support by pledging to record their decision this Organ Donation Week.

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