A service of remembrance and thanksgiving has commemorated those who have saved lives through organ donation in Northern Ireland.
More than 800 people attended the event on Sunday 21st February, organised by NHS Blood and Transplant with support from the Nephrology Unit of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Family and friends of organ donors gathered at the Assembly Buildings Conference Centre in Belfast to remember their loved ones who have died. They were joined by people who have benefitted from organ transplants who publically gave thanks for the gift of life they have received.
Most of those attending the service had donated their family member’s organs or received a transplant within the past three years, but some families remembered those who donated decades ago.
One of those celebrating their gift of life was 48 year-old Alan Wylie from Ballymena. He received a heart transplant 31 years ago.
Alan said: “Having a transplant has transformed my life. I can now do things I couldn’t do before and I have had the opportunity to become a father to two wonderful children. It wouldn’t have been possible without my donor. I can’t thank them enough and I would urge everyone to think about organ donation and talk to your families about it.”
The number of deceased organ donors in Northern Ireland continues to rise year on year despite the number of donors across the UK dropping for the first time in 11 years in 2014/15. In the same period Northern Ireland achieved its highest ever rate of deceased organ donation.
This service, which takes place every three years, honours those who donated their organs after death, leading to hundreds of patients’ lives being saved or transformed. NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for others to be inspired by this selfless act. Everyone in the UK is urged to discuss organ donation with their families and share their decision about what they would do if called on to donate.
Eleanor Boyce, NHS Blood and Transplant’s Organ Donation acting regional manager in Northern Ireland said: “It’s an honour to be able to celebrate the selfless donations of people in Northern Ireland over the last three years. We can see from those celebrating their transplants that organ donation clearly saves lives and it is vitally important to say thank you to the families whose loved ones have donated their organs to assist others.
“With around three people dying across the UK every day due to the shortage of organs, these donors and their families have carried out an inspirational act to help others to live. We hope the example they have set will encourage many more to follow in their footsteps and agree to become an organ donor.”
The music for the event was led by local musician Malachi Cush and Dr Paul Glover, lead clinician for Organ Donation in Northern Ireland concluded the service with his tribute to those who make transplantation possible - the organ donors and their families.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323.