The lives of hundreds of South Yorkshire patients are at risk because of a shortage of organs – and nearly 20 people have died in the past year waiting for a transplant, figures show.
Across the county, 18 residents died while waiting for suitable replacement organs, and there are 219 people in the region requiring potentially lifesaving surgery.
The worrying statistics have been released by the NHS to mark National Transplant Week, which runs until Sunday.
This year’s campaign encourages families to talk about organ donation to avoid relatives facing difficult decisions if someone dies in circumstances where they can donate an organ such as their kidneys, lungs or heart.
Transplant patients in South Yorkshire are backing the campaign by urging more people to join the donor register.
Diane Waller, whose son Jack needed two new lungs to treat a rare condition, said giving organs was ‘the most natural thing in the world’.
Jack, aged 14, from Brampton Bierlow near Rotherham, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.
He wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of one, but was kept alive for almost five years before his double transplant by wearing a special backpack which fed vital drugs to his heart.
“I’ve had an extra nine years with Jack,” said Diane, 49.
“Without a transplant, he definitely wouldn’t have had that – it would have been more like six months.
“I can’t understand why people don’t want to donate. My organs are no good to me when I’m dead and gone so they might as well go to somebody. Nobody should be dying.”
Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Last year 59 people living in South Yorkshire benefited from a lifesaving organ transplant thanks to families making the decision to donate when a loved one died, a decision that we know makes them incredibly proud.
“We know that families are much less likely to allow organ donation to go ahead if they don’t know it’s what their loved one wanted.
“To help more people we need everyone, even if they’re on the donor register, to tell those closest to them they want to donate their organs.”
As of last month, 365,349 local residents were on the register to donate organs, said Ms Johnson.
The 18 patients who died lost their lives between April 2013 and the end of March.
Nationally, three people die every day in need of a transplant because of a shortage of organs, while four in 10 families refuse permission to donate.
n Visit www.transplantweek.co.uk for more information.