Mum of organ donor son urges Scots to join register

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Over 120,000 people across Scotland have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register to help save a life in the past year.

New figures show that as of 5 December 2011, 1,961,840 people living in Scotland were on the Register, around a six per cent increase on the number of people on it at the same time last year.

To highlight the importance of organ donation, mum Erin Lappin is urging more Scots to join the register in 2012 to make a difference to the many people waiting on a transplant.

Erin, 29, lost her three-year-old son Stewart Johnston in January 2010, and she takes comfort everyday from knowing her son saved the lives of five people.

Since 1 April 2011, 207 transplants have been carried out across Scotland and although the number of people on the Register has increased over the past year, there are still over 600 people in Scotland waiting for a transplant.

Across the UK, three people die every day because they don’t get the organ they need in time.

Erin said: “If you are in any doubt about the good that organ donation can do you should visit someone who is waiting on a transplant. The difference it can make to someone’s life is amazing.

“We need to be more open and talk about it with our families and make that decision. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject, don’t put it off, join the Register today.”

Erin first knew something was wrong with Stewart when he was suffering from a high temperature. But in the middle of the night he stopped breathing and she called for an ambulance to her Clydebank home.

She said: “Stewart was rushed to the hospital but it was 45 minutes before doctors could get his heart beating again. At this point they had to take him for a CT scan to see if there had been any lasting damage to his brain as he had been without oxygen for so long. The scan showed significant brain damage and doctors told us it was non survivable.

“Both Stewart and I are on the NHS Organ Donor Register. We were both of the opinion that it is about quality of life, not quantity of life, and so when we knew Stewart wasn’t going to survive we asked doctors if organ donation would be a possibility.

“We were certain that we wanted something good to come out of something so bad. There were many tests they had to do first to confirm that Stewart was brain stem dead and we met with a transplant co-ordinator who explained the process.

“We had time to say goodbye to him and also for other members of the family to come to the hospital to say their goodbyes. The nurses and the transplant coordinator also organised for us to make handprints, footprints and have locks of Stewart’s hair.

“When it was eventually time for the organ retrieval team to take over, the transplant co-ordinator showed him so much respect and tenderness. She treated him with love and affection. Afterwards I was able to see him and have my time with him then too.”

Stewart’s liver, stomach, intestine and kidney’s were all matched to people on the waiting list in the UK. Although his heart wasn’t suitable for transplant, his heart valves were and doctors were able to use these to save two babies’ lives in March and April 2011 – a year after Stewart passed away.

In total, Erin and Stewart’s brave decision saved the lives of four children including a boy, aged five, a girl, aged three, and two babies, as well as a 28-year-old man.

Little Stewart’s brother Sean, 11, and sister Kelsi, 15, are both proud of their brother, knowing he saved other people’s lives. Erin also helps others waiting for a transplant by raising awareness of the need for more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

She said: “No one likes to think about it but all you have to do is join the Register, it takes two minutes, you can sign up online or by text and you could help save lives after you’ve gone, just like my baby.”