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More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need an organ transplant. While statistics show organ donor registration is on the rise, still only 29% of the population are currently registered. Emily Childs looks at what life is really like living on the transplant list.

Imagine having the rest of your life hang on a phone call – a call to tell you that the failing organ inside you can be replaced by a healthy new one. It’s a lifesaving call that thousands each year are still waiting for, and one that many will never receive. As a result almost 1000 people each year die while waiting for organs.


For over a year, waiting for this call was 49 year old Mark Witcher’s reality.

Mark’s Story

Mark Witcher, double lung transplant survivor

A retired Nurse from Wallingford in Oxfordshire, Mark had a bad history of asthma. After a severe case of pneumonia lead to a condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in 2005, Mark’s health slowly deteriorated. By 2009, the father of two was put on the live list for a lung transplant.

Mark and his wife Liz described waiting for that call as the most stressful time in their lives: “My experience was being constantly on edge. I had a phone on me at all times day and night, and told the children when they went out of the house that they had to always carry a phone so we could contact them”.

It’s often common for those on the waiting list to experience false alerts. Mark had seven unsuccessful calls, in which was prepared for surgery only to find out at the last minute that the organs on offer were unsuitable.

“It took over our lives completely”

Eventually, the stress of waiting for a transplant also took its toll on his children Ellie, 17, and Alex, 15: “My son became very anxious about the future, and my daughter became old before her years as she tried to control the feelings she was coping with”.

“On a couple of occasions when we did get a call my daughter went into full blown panic attacks and cried uncontrollably with the fear of what was to come… every time the phone rang we would all jump, it took over our lives completely”.

Getting the Call

Mark finally received his transplant on the 4th October 2010, 382 days after first being put on the transplant list: “When I got a call it was a feeling that that is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it. A mixture of blind terror and hope mixed up with a fear of death”.

“It has taken us a good while to get over the fact that I have had the transplant, and the phone ringing is just because someone wants to speak to us”.

Mark knew he was very lucky. The usual waiting time according to the NHS is often a lot longer, and on average three people die waiting on the list every day. He now runs a blog to share his amazing story, and encourage others to help save a life by signing the Organ Donor Register.

Organ Donation: Myths and Facts

Source: NHS Choices

What are the odds?

NHSBT statistics show the number of people needing a transplant is expected to rise steeply over the next decade. An ‘opt out’ system of registration has recently been adopted in Wales to increase future donor numbers, but it is yet to be seriously considered in the rest of the UK. Which is why the Organ Donor Register is so important.

While around 90% of us agree with organ donation, only 29% are currently signed up to the register.

To get a real idea of people’s thoughts on organ donation, I asked the public if they were currently signed up to the Organ Donor Register and why.

It Could Be You

Although statistics show you are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor, in reality it’s something that many of us will never have to experience… but what if it was your life on the line?

Mark himself admitted: “I had been on the organ donor register since I was a teenager and had not thought much about it. I never in a million years thought I would end up needing a transplant myself”.

The current family refusal rate for organ transplantation in this country is 40%. If you passed away, would your family be clear of your wishes?

Why leave it to chance? The Organ Donor Register is designed to make sure the wishes of loved ones are made clear. SIGN UP NOW

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