In Britain, there are currently over 10,000 people in need of an organ transplant. Each day three of them will die because of the lack of donors. Despite this, 15,000 people die each day in the UK. Only three of them will become organ donors. These statistics just don’t make sense to me.
This morning I read an article from yesterday’s Guardian about living organ donors – the photo of the two brothers, Garyn and Gethyn George, speaks volumes. I’m not going to paraphrase the article but it’s well worth a read (although if you’re as soft as me you might need a tissue by the end)!
At Christmas I watched a documentary I’d recorded back in October, called Transplant. It portrayed the story of how a single organ donor, Penny, changed the life of so many others. Penny was 65 years old when she was admitted to St George’s Hospital in London having had a brain haemorrhage. There are age restrictions in place on certain organs, for example you need to be 65 or under to donate a heart, but kidneys can be used at any age. Cyril, Penny’s husband, talked in the documentary about Penny’s belief that organs were leant to you, she felt that if they could be used after death then they had to be.
The pain of the grief that Penny’s husband and daughter are experiencing was palpable in the documentary, I really felt for them. The documentary also spoke to several of the organ recipients, and their family members. The gift Penny gave has transformed their lives in a way that I don’t know many of us ever will. The wife of one man who received Penny’s liver spoke of her emotions as a mix of excitement, terror, guilt and fear. He went on to make a full recovery. The take away message from this documentary, and from reading the article yesterday, is that more people need to donate their organs and need to make it clear that they wish to do so.
Most people support organ donation in principle, but approximately 40% of families still decide not to donate their loved ones organs at the time of death – even if they have expressed their wish to donate, and in some cases are on the donor register. I was struck by how determined and confident Penny’s husband and daughter were in her wishes, it seemed to make their decision much easier, in fact it wasn’t their decision and they were clear on that.
One of the things I hear most when discussing organ donation with friends, is the concern that they wouldn’t be buried or cremated whole. I understand that for some people this is a real concern, for me it’s less of one and one of my favourite moments in the documentary was when Penny’s daughter explained:
We weren’t particularly precious over what she had with her when she was cremated. We don’t have memories of her heart, or her liver, or her kidneys, we have memories of her.
If you’ve not thought about organ donation, take the time, even if you decide you don’t want to at least you will have made an active choice. If, like me, you wish for your organs to be recycled then you need to make it explicitly clear to your family that you want that to happen, it makes it easier for them and significantly increases the chance that you can transform or save someone’s life.
To find out more about joining the donor register visit the NHS Blood and Transplant service site here. To hear about my Dad’s experience of a blood transfusion, in case you’d like some inspiration for giving blood you can read an old post here.
I’ve been delighted with the response to a tweet I sent this morning:
So far responses have included:
@paul_clarke - mobile/screen size adaptation
@Ermintrude2 - the reason I went is accessible and obvious. No auto video/audio!
@jaxrafferty - Important that a website is credible: whether selling socks, travel or research findings. Oh, & that it is not full of typos
@444blackcat - clear easy navigation
@copperbird - loading time, and how quickly can I find the info I want
@segelstrom – content
@amcunningham - most important to me is being able to figure out what it is about- access to simple messages
@missseapeaches – ease of use
I know I’ll not be on twitter for most of today so thought I’d create a blog post too so people could leave comments if they wanted to in more than 140 (because I know I’ll not be able to get into a discussion). I’ll copy further answers into here over the weekend. Thanks for all the answers.
I spent last weekend in Wales and had a great time….all except the small matter of dragging myself out of bed on Saturday morning to pay for on-street parking in Cardiff, before then receiving a parking ticket for parking #arrrrrgh as apparently they couldn’t see my ticket.
I can’t begin to tell you how annoying that was, or the fact that if I’d known the fine for not buying a ticket was £50 (with 50% discount bringing it down to £25 if paid in 2 weeks) given how knackered I was I might have actually paid that £25 for a lie in, rather than get out of bed before 8am and still pay £4 and now have to write a letter and buy a stamp. I have written to Cardiff Council Parking Services to challenge the fine I received, and to provide feedback…detailed below.
I’ll let you know how I get on, but I was just wondering if anyone knows what your legal rights are if I have the ticket and believe it could be seen, but they claim they can not see it? Any thoughts very welcome.
Dear Cardiff Council Parking Services
I received a PCN while parked in Newport Road Lane, Adamsdown on 21 January 2012. I am writing to challenge this PCN as I had purchased a ticket on this date at 8am and it was visible on my dashboard. I have enclosed the original ticket and PCN.
I also wish to provide three pieces of feedback, in the spirit of making this a useful exercise for us both!
1) It may be easier for your Civil Enforcement Officers to notice tickets if they had adhesive on them so that they could be stuck to windscreens rather than placed on the dashboard
2) It would be easier for customers to pay, and for your CEOs to check payment, if you moved to a text based/technology enhanced payment service
3) It would be a far better service experience if you were able to pay the previous night for early morning parking. I arrived in Cardiff at 8pm, but the machine would not allow me to pay for the next morning’s parking (despite the chargeable period for Friday having passed), therefore I had to get out of bed to buy my ticket – only then to receive a PCN.
I look forward to hearing from you in relation to my PCN being nullified, and I hope that my feedback is helpful.
The last few days Gran hasn’t been very well, I spent an hour with her and Grandad yesterday evening and she was perky, but not herself. Grandad spent the whole time just looking at her, wistfully, worrying but like he was drinking her in with his eyes. They’ve been together since they were children and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last summer, I’m really not sure how one will exist without the other, they’re a complete and utter team.
Early this morning my Auntie and Mum decided that Gran needed to go to hospital, the ambulance was called and a rapid response unit was dispatched. They live down the bottom of a very steep hill (too steep for the ambulance to get down) so Gran was wheeled out of the house, up the hill and into the waiting ambulance on a trolley, and whisked away to A&E. Mum was blown away by the care that Gran (and she) got – Polly and Tom who took her in, the nurses who settled her into a room and cleaned her up, the consultant and doctor who examined her. She had a full MOT, a couple of ECGs, blood tests, x-rays, examinations and was put on a drip. I’ve just been up to see her tonight, she has been admitted onto a ward now, in a side room (the same one that Dad was in a couple years ago), and she looks exhausted but restful. With a bit of luck she’ll be sent home in the next day or two, she hates hospitals and hasn’t been into one except as a visitor since giving birth over sixty years ago! I hope that she makes it home, Mum was telling me that Grandad was distraught when they took her away this morning, sat in his chair crying (I’ve never seen him cry, he’s not of a generation that seems that comfortable with expressing emotion) and I hope for his sake, and her’s, that she get’s home. They’re realistic about their age, they know they won’t last forever, but I really hope she gets home to Grandad just once more.
The point of this post was to say thanks though. I’ve had one bad experience in our local A&E and it’s always at the front of my mind when I hear someone has gone in there. If nothing else the treatment Gran has received today has gone some way to making up for that experience. The staff were really kind to my Gran, looked after her and treated her with respect and dignity. I’m conscious that lots of people complain about the NHS (myself included when needs be) but my family have received more than our fair share of treatment in the last few years and it never ceases to amaze me how awesome a machine the NHS is, when it’s well oiled.
I suspect I couldn’t work in a hospital environment, I couldn’t handle the smells, the stress, the confusion, the desperation, especially in care for older people. I also know I wouldn’t be able to work on an ambulance, never knowing what you’ll turn up for, wishing away the final call of the night shift because you know it’ll eat into your sleep or day off. I am so grateful to each and every NHS worker who chooses to look out for other people, you really do make a massive difference to people’s lives. Thank you.
It’s almost nine years ago that I had my PhD Viva, bits of it I remember like it was yesterday, lots of it I couldn’t recall if my life depended on it. In fact, if I’m really honest I think I could say the same about my PhD itself. I was reading a news story recently about a special school in Oxfordshire and I couldn’t recall why the name rang a bell, until I realised it had been one of the schools I visited as part of my PhD research. It was one of the schools I spent a week in, conducting observations and making fieldnotes, to complement the mass of interview data, questionnaire survey data, census data and additional fieldnotes and documents collected for document analysis. Despite that, it was lurking in the distant realms of my mind; at the time if you’d have suggested I’d forget the names of the schools I’d studied I’d have laughed it off, as a truly ridiculous suggestion, these schools had featured so heavily in my life for four years, I’d spent more time looking at and thinking about them than I had anything else in life.
Yet as I sit here now I couldn’t even tell you the names of all the schools I studied. I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing to have, and to some extent given my time again I’m not sure I’d change anything, but I do think I could have taken a lot of pressure off myself if there had been a few more people to let me know it would be alright; to reassure me that these details while hugely important to me, and my sense of integrity that I presented them well and accurately, were actually not really the point; that most people don’t bother with the detail; and that in fact no-one except myself, my supervisors, external and internal examiner would even read the damn thing (I always thought my Mum had, but I’ve never actually asked her outright and I don’t want to know the truth now to be honest)!
So why am I rambling on about this now? Well in my twitter stream today alone there have been tweets about people trying to finish their PhD, or approaching their viva and I know at least one person who is working hard to make the minor corrections required after their viva. I’m not suggesting for a moment that those people need to hear my thoughts, or will pay any heed to them (if indeed they even see them). However, I am recalling my own experience, and how solitary it felt at times, and how good it would have been to know that the weight I felt I was carrying wasn’t unique to me. No-one in my immediate family had been to university before I went, consequently no-one I knew had a degree, never mind a second degree. In one way this was fantastic because it meant a distinct absence of pressure, I had no-one to live up to, in another way it meant I had no-one (other than the few fellow students I’d once shared offices with) to compare notes with and only my own expectations to live up to.
One thing struck me about the day of my viva, a comment from the person responsible for postgrads. She was one of the lecturers in my department (who I’d not seen in years and who didn’t really know me at all), what I remember is her breezily calling down a corridor ‘You’ve got your viva today haven’t you? Make sure you enjoy it’. The woman was quite clearly insane, something I’d long suspected as she was a sociologist who appeared to pride herself on her dress sense as much as her research (I’m just being honest, I was young and had a thing about sociology because my friends who had studied it had ‘seen’ exam papers as undergrads….yes they actually got their papers weeks in advance to prepare for; probably quite inspired thinking when I look at it now but at the time it just led to an all consuming begrudgery of anything to do with sociology!). This was an exam, did she not realise that my research millstone far from just hanging around my neck was now starting to choke me, and she was telling me to enjoy an exam. I can’t tell you how ridiculous her words sounded to me.
As I look back now I absolutely understand what she was saying, it just severely lacked context. I’m sure what she was actually meaning was take the opportunity, make sure you get the most out of it, this is the one chance you’ll have to talk to people about your research when they really care. This is probably (let’s be honest) the only opportunity you’ll have to talk to people who have actually read your PhD….and I really wouldn’t expect anyone else to ever read it, it’s three inches thick and full of good stuff hidden in my horrific self-taught academic prose, prose that was encouraged. I was always told I wrote well and yet when I open it now I’m horrified at some of it, but I digress that’s a conversation for another time.
If you are on the final slog of your PhD or Masters, if you are preparing for a viva, if you are wondering why you are still studying for something you started years ago, have faith, listen to those around you (even sociologists) and shout if you need someone to rant at or share your concerns with. I wish anyone who is hoping to finish an academic thesis in 2012, all the luck, support, Diet Coke, inspirational quotes, cake, music, enthusiasm, statistics advice, distractions, religion, pancakes, places to stay, breakfasts, karaoke, toasted cheese sarnies, and above all else caffeine* that they need to get them there. Good luck with it.
**These may not actually help at all, but they are all things that people have acknowledged in their acknowledgements pages over on the Acknowledgers Blog. I’m always looking for contributions so please share yours once they’re done and remember that writing your acknowledgements is the absolute best bit, ever.