Patient urges action during National Transplant Week

Dr Jan Szafranski and Oli Lewington at Kettering General Hospital
Dr Jan Szafranski and Oli Lewington at Kettering General Hospital
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A man who spent two agonising years on the donor register before undergoing a major lifesaving double lung transplant is during people to have a “difficult talk” with their families this week, which is National Transplant Week.

Oli Lewington, 32, of Wellingborough, was born with cystic fibrosis and said he grew up with a very acute sense of his own mortality.

A donor card

A donor card

The condition affects the lungs and digestive system which become clogged with thick sticky mucus, resulting in chronic infections and inflamation.

When other teenagers and schoolfriends were planning to go to university, Oli said he knew there was no point – he would never be able to keep himself healthy enough to complete a degree and the additional strain would probably lead to his death.

Oli’s life was saved by a complete stranger when he was 25-years-old, someone who he says he both wants to know more about and at the same time wants to know nothing about.

That person’s death allowed Oli to receive two completely healthy lungs after spending two years on the donor register.

Oli said: “I was weeks away from death. I was on the list for two-and-a-half years and you only go on there if your life expectancy is two years, so I had already stretched the limit.

“I know the age and sex of the person whose lungs I received, and I have sent their family Christmas cards and so on, but I have never heard anything back. That’s their decision and I respect it.”

Oli, now much healthier and married to wife Kati, is helping to promote National Transplant Week and urging people to speak to their family and friends about what they would like to happen to their organs after they die.

He said: “Carrying a donor card is important, but it’s also important that you have a discussion with your family.

“I would not want to give away the organs of a family member if I did not know what their wishes would have been.

“So I would urge people to have that difficult conversation this week, so that your family know what your wishes would be.”

Oli kept a blog during his time on the organ donation register. The blog can be found at www.smilethroughit.com.

Hospital’s bid to raise awareness

Kettering General Hospital’s Organ Donation Lead Doctor, Dr Jan Szafranski, says the hospital is doing its bit to increase awareness of organ donation.

He added: “Regionally, there has been an increase of 150 per cent in the number of people on the register.

“The number of donations from Kettering Hospital patients has increased from about three per year in 2010 to more than 12 per year now.”