In my professional life no time is more important than the seven days of Organ Donation Week and this certainly no exception. I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to be the public face of this event. It is a time when we can focus attention on the benefits of Organ Donation and get our message about saving lives out to a wider audience than ever before.
A brisk start to Organ Donation Week is always vital as it introduces the subject to the public and provides momentum which can lead to other media channels picking up the story and running it later in the week. This week started perfectly with a series of media interviews planned to take place in London on Monday and the news that our hashtag #YesIDonate was trending. First port of call was Channel 5 for a pre-recorded interview for their news programme later in the day. I always find that in terms of preparing and feeling confident, the first interview is always the worst. Media is rather like riding a bike, the more you get on with it the easier it feels and the more comfortable you get. In that scenario you can therefore imagine that the first interview feels like taking the stabilisers off for the first time!
The Ch5 team were very supportive and clearly engaged with our message about ‘Having the Donation Conversation’ and while I try very hard not to see or indeed hear my own media work I was assured by my assistant that it went well. I am always acutely aware that up and down the UK colleagues are working hard to promote the week and generate publicity and I am very proud to have the opportunity to support their brilliant work by undertaking interviews that I hope will help them get the message out.
I barely had time to thank Ch5 before dashing out into the street for a cab to the BBC Broadcasting House for my first radio interview on BBC Asian Network. I was fortunate to be joined in this interview with a wonderful recipient mum who talked movingly about her agonising wait for a liver for her 5 year old boy. She spoke with such conviction and generosity for her son’s donor family that she made my work easy. I truly struggle with how anyone could have listened to her and not wanted to say yes to organ donation.
The West End Donor Centre is fortuitously close to BBC Broadcasting House and I was grateful to have the opportunity to nip round the corner and drop my kit into a room before heading to ITV for the main interview of the day on the ITV1 Lunchtime News. There I met Michelle who was to be my fellow guest for the piece. Michelle was with her husband and their lovely little girl and was sharing the story of her little girl Aoife who died waiting for a Heart Transplant and donated her organs to save other children.
I am always humbled by the bravery of donor families and never more so then when they are prepared to share their stories to help save the lives of others. During the interview I was asked about the concept of ‘Opt Out’ for organ donation in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as it exists in Wales. My answer was that legislation is the responsibility of the government rather than NHSBT. We will work with any legislation in place but if you believe in Organ Donation don’t wait for the law to change, say right now that you want to be an organ donor and join the Organ Donor Register. As we move forward more and more of us will probably be asked about Opt Out and it’s important we keep the focus on saving lives now through our donation decisions and conversations.
The rest of the day was quite literally a run around London going back and forth from Broadcasting House to ITV and back again, by the time I was back at the BBC for my last interview at 9pm the security staff were greeting me with a smile like a familiar friend! I could not list the number of radio stations and TV channels I spoke to but it was a day where I truly felt like we had made an impact and got Organ Donation Week off to the best possible start.
I stayed over in London and headed from there straight to Wales for a different aspect of my week. I was attending the Bangor University feedback session from the work they have been undertaking looking at the impact of the Welsh Opt Out Legislation. It was a fascinating event with very positive feedback that, interestingly, gelled perfectly with our message about the importance of having the donation conversation whether you are in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health, Well-being and Sport, gave an excellent speech taking on board the various recommendations.
An office day was a great opportunity to catch up on the mails and calls that had inevitably been queuing for my attention during two busy days on the road. It was also an opportunity to learn more about the plans for further media attention in the rest of the week. I always know that any commitment in Organ Donation Week can potentially need to be altered or indeed broken as my first duty has to be to promoting our campaign. I was therefore delighted that Radio 5 Live were prepared to interview me on Thursday following my attendance at NHSBT CARE. They had initially asked for an interview in their Birmingham Studios but agreed to do it down a landline so colleagues in New Street kindly helped me to find a quiet office where I could dial in.
Friday was the final working day of ODW 2017 and the media picked up on a story released by our colleagues in Communications about a remarkable young girl called Jemima Layzell who donated her organs which were transplanted into 8 separate recipients: something unique in the history of Organ Donation. Jemima’s parents were wonderful, their pride in their daughter’s ‘tree of life’ as they called her impact upon her recipients was inspiring. The story was first picked up by the BBC and Sky, ITV and Radio soon followed. Thankfully some brisk running around Media City allowed me to meet all the requests. My final interview was down the line at BBC London Live at 8pm, some 12.5 hours after the first interview of the day! It was a draining day but one that I was delighted to have been able to undertake. There can be few better reasons to go to work than to support Organ Donation.
I know that across NHSBT colleagues have had equally busy, exciting and innovative weeks’ supporting ODW 2017. I have seen pink fire trucks, dancing nurses, countless supporters in fancy dress and a myriad of huge organ donor cards! Thank you to every one of you. Together as the Organ Donation team I truly believe we have had a successful week, have signed up new potential donors to the ODR and have given hope to those on the Transplant Waiting List. Take a bow!
Thank you once again for taking the time to find my blog.
Anthony Clarkson, Assistant Director – Organ Donation and Nursing
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