Figures released this afternoon show that 190 organ transplants were performed in Ireland in 2020.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said:
“Organ donation is among the most selfless gifts we can give another. I sincerely thank the families of deceased donors who at a time of great tragedy found the strength to put the needs of others first. I hope they can take some solace in the relief and joy brought to the 190 organ recipients and their families and friends.”
Minister Donnelly added
"As we all know, 2020 has been a year like no other. The impact of COVID-19 made it difficult for hospitals to undertake major surgeries. Organ transplantation involves dealing with very sick people who require lengthy surgery and who need round-the-clock care from our intensive care staff. There were 190 transplants carried out in 2020.
While the number of transplants is lower than the 274 transplants carried out in 2019, it is still a great achievement given the challenges caused by the pandemic. I want to acknowledge the great work of all the staff in the three transplant centres and the intensive care staff in our hospitals for maintaining organ donation and transplantation services despite COVID-19.
The number of transplants in 2020 is testament to their great work and the professionalism and dedication of all the intensive care staff, surgical teams, medical and nursing staff who look after patients and their families.’’
Reflecting on the year Dr Catherine Motherway, HSE Clinical Lead, Organ Donation expressed admiration and gratitude to those families who elected to donate organs and save the lives of other people in this country.
She said “I wish to sincerely thank the families of deceased donors. They at a time of tragedy and grief through the sudden death of a loved one have given the gift of life to another person often a stranger and transformed the lives of many families. Their selfless act of generosity is always inspirational and humbling. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha uaisle.”
She added “Following a challenging and difficult year for all our services, we have continued to maintain our organ donation and transplant services in 2020. We will continue to champion organ donation because organ donation saves lives and our achievements this year reflects the generosity of our families and patients and the professionalism of the intensive care, theatre, medical and nursing staff.”
Minister Donnelly confirmed he intends to bring the Human Tissue Bill to Cabinet in 2021.
He said: "This is a very important piece of legislation and it is a priority for me.
It is my intention to publish the Bill in 2021. This legislation will provide for a soft opt-out system. I also want to confirm additional funding of €0.75m in 2021 to improve our organ donation and transplant services. This will further develop our National Organ Retrieval Service to be comparable with best international standards. The funding will also ensure that our organ donation services are equipped to meet additional demands following the introduction of the Human Tissue Bill.”
Approximately 590 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Ireland. This includes patients on dialysis awaiting kidney transplants and patients waiting for lung, heart and liver transplants. While some kidney donations can take place through the living donation programme, all other organ donations can only proceed when another life is lost.
Minister Donnelly concluded: “Organ donation can be the gift of life for some people and I encourage families across the country to have that conversation, discuss their intentions around organ donation and make family members aware of their wishes. This will help to increase organ donation and save lives.”
Family and Patient Stories
In 2017 Janet O Brien lost her son Luke O Reilly (20) tragically following an attack on Halloween night. Luke’s organs were donated and Janet says Luke lives on through organ donation. She said “I instinctively knew donation was what Luke would have wanted and I find solace in knowing my son has helped others.”
Rebecca Maher’s daughter Matilda passed away when she was 8 months old. Matilda was born with a major heart condition and was too sick to go on the transplant list. Matilda became an organ donor and Rebecca says for herself and her husband Brendan “It has given us huge comfort to know that Matilda has saved somebody else’s life and the life of their family.”
Karen Kelly is Josh’s mammy. Last year Josh, now 8 years old, was placed on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. Following a thorough testing regime, in Beaumont hospital Karen was confirmed as a suitable donor for Josh. Karen bravely donated her kidney to Josh. Her kidney surgery took place in Beaumont in October and on the same day Josh received his new kidney in Temple Street. Karen said “For me the hardest part was not being able to be with Josh during his surgery in Temple Street as I recovered in Beaumont Hospital. Josh is now a happy and healthy 8 year old and I am very proud to be an organ donor. I really want to reach out and support and anyone who may find themselves in similar circumstances and let everyone know how important organ donation is in saving and improving lives.”
Since his double lung transplant in 2017 David Crosby has continued to run marathons across the world in honour of the donor who gave him the gift of life. He said; “My plans for 2020 were unfortunately put on hold but I am determined to keep on running and complete the Marathon super six series as soon as I can. I would like everyone to know how important it is to share your wishes on organ donation. I will be forever grateful to my donor their family who saved my life.”
Minister Donnelly and the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI) sincerely thank the families of deceased donors who at a time of great tragedy found the strength to offer a new lease of life to many people.
For all the positive stories of successful transplant, sadly some patients do and will die each year while waiting for a transplant.
ODTI and their extended team, remain committed to increasing organ donations and transplants and urge all, to have that conversation about donation and make their wishes known. Having the conversation ensures wherever possible the loss of one precious life can be turned to benefit many others through donation.
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