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Memorial unveiled to recognise organ donors saving 25,000 lives

L-R: Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHBST; Wendy Clark, Deputy Chief Executive at NHSBT; Simon Williams, the Chancellor of the Priory of England and the Islands of the Order of St John; Jo Farrar, Chief Executive Officer at NHSBT; HRH The Duke of Gloucester; Paul Griffiths, Prior for Wales for Order of St John; Reverend John Davis and Dale Gardiner, Associate Medical Director – Deceased Organ Donation at NHSBT.

Ten thousand organ donors, who have saved tens of thousands of lives, have been honoured with an Order of St John Award for Organ Donation, run in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant, over the last decade. Around 350 of the organ donors were from Wales.

A special event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the posthumous awards, received by an organ donor’s family on their behalf, saw His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, unveil a new memorial dedicated to all organ and tissue donors in the UK.

The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque dedicated to the memory of all organ and tissues donors at an event at the Museum of the Order of St John, in Clerkenwell, London, last week (Friday 15th September). The stone memorial will have a permanent home in the Cloister Garden at the museum where anyone will be able to visit it.

Donor families from across the UK were among those who came together at the event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the awards and remember all donors. One family from Wales who have received the Order of St John organ donation award is Odette Ward, from Aberdare, whose husband Paul became an organ donor in 2007.

Paul worked as an operating department practitioner (ODP) in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, going on to lecture then become the deputy head of the training school for ODP at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Paul, a dad of two, born in Sidcup, London, died after a fall in July 2007 aged 38.

Odette, was one of the donor families invited to the launch of the awards in 2013, where she receiving the award on Paul’s behalf.Odette, aged 56, says: “We as a family were both surprised and honoured to receive the OSJ award in September 2013.

“We were told at the ceremony that we were the first Welsh family to receive the award, this made us proud that Paul had his wish fulfilled. It was so important for him to have his organs donated if anything happened to him and we’d talked about it.

”We do talk about Paul’s award and I have shown it to many people and explained what the award is about. For us as a family the fact that Paul’s death was not forgotten by so many is such a great comfort.

 “Paul’s donation, this award and also having the opportunity to work as a family representative for Organ Donation in Wales has brought such wonderful feelings of peace and satisfaction to our lives, knowing that his wishes were honoured even at such a difficult time. We know that “in giving we have received” (this is our family saying) and this has helped us to deal with the pain of loss.

“We know that five people have gained life thanks to Paul, that in turn numbers so many more people helped because their families have their loved one with them. Paul believed that everyone deserves a second chance and as his death gave life to others, then it was his way of giving that.”

Since 2013 the families of organ donors have been able to accept an award for their loved one, collecting it in person on their behalf at a private ceremony or having it sent to them, to recognise their incredible life-saving gift.

In the last ten years, around 10,000 people* have been honoured in this way, and are estimated to have made more than 25,000 organ transplants** possible, including around 350 donors from Wales who are thought to have saved nearly 900 lives. Around 45,000 people have helped others after their death in the UK since donation began here, and more than 60,000 people are alive today thanks to an organ transplant.

Simon Williams, the Chancellor of the Priory of England and the Islands of the Order of St John, said: “This Award represents the very best of humanity, recognising extraordinary people who seek to help others if the worst should happen to them.

“Every person who is recognised has their own story, yet they are united in their life changing impact on others who are facing their own hour of great need.

“The memorial which His Royal Highness has unveiled today will be a place of quiet reflection for families who know the cost of the generosity of their loved ones, 10 years after the creation of the Award.”

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Organ donors give the ultimate gift of life to people they will never know and it is important we recognise the difference this makes to the lives of recipients.

“Without people being willing to donate their organs, no organ transplants would be possible. Over 60,000 people are alive thanks to organ donors and their families saying yes, but thousands more adults and children are still waiting for a life-saving donation.

“We’re very proud to have worked with the Order of St John for ten years to honour so many organ donors and it is wonderful to unveil a tribute to all organ and tissue donors at the heart of our capital.

“We hope everyone in Wales will be inspired to confirm their decision to be an organ donor and share this with their family to help save more lives.”

The Order of St John entered into partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant leading to the national award to recognise deceased organ donors. Tissue donors are also now recognised with an award which is sent out to their family after donation.

Preserving human life is the fundamental purpose of the Order of St John, and this shared ethos with NHSBT, underpins the award. The posthumous award, displaying the words “add life, give hope” was presented to the first group of families on 18th September 2013.

The 10th anniversary on Monday (18th September) marks the start of Organ Donation Week this year, which runs from 18 to 24 September to raise awareness across the UK. Everyone in Wales is urged to confirm their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and share this with their family.