“Making a decision to donate your organs after your death is a brave and heroic choice which can save and improve the lives of many others.”
Donna Allen is a Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation (SNOD) at Walsall Manor Hospital which also happens to be her own local hospital, the place where she did all her training and where she started her nursing career.
She is working with colleagues to promote Organ Donation Week which runs to Sunday 26 September and takes the theme Leave Them Certain. This year’s campaign aims to encourage people to talk to their loved ones about organ donation through highlighting that families are always involved before organ donation goes ahead.
Donna’s role has families at its very heart and sees her supporting hospital trusts and units; providing education, support and advice. These specialist nurses facilitate all aspects of the donation process providing care and support to families and support and advice to clinicians and nursing staff.
She said: “At the heart of the role, for me, are the families we support through the most difficult of times as well as ensuring the best end of life care is provided and saving lives through the gift of organ donation.
“Making a decision to donate your organs after your death is a brave and heroic choice which can save and improve the lives of many others. It can provide comfort to families – leaving a lasting legacy for those we leave behind. That is why sharing your wishes about organ donation with your loved ones is so important. It helps those in this unique situation support a decision that you have made and leaves them certain about your choices.
“Each family we are involved with is different, every donor has a different and unique story. Only around 1% of those who die each year in England are eligible to donate their organs, something which surprises many. Usually these people are cared for in the intensive care unit, theatre recovery or Emergency Department. This is because to safely donate organs the person at the end of their life needs to be on a ventilator.
“It is only once the decision has been made that a person cannot survive their critical illness that a referral to the organ donation team is made and the specialist nursing team will then assess if the patient is suitable. It is after an assessment, if the patient is suitable, that the team will speak with families and support them as part of a holistic discussion about end of life care. “
Donna took up her SNOD role just under a year ago. She has always worked in critical care and has been a Nurse, Sister, Critical Care Outreach Nurse and Clinical Educator/ Practice Development Nurse prior to her latest role, which she describes as “vast and multi-faceted.” And there are many reasons why she loves her job.
She added: “I have the unique privilege to be a part of this journey for the donors and their families and hear amazing stories from recipients. The organ transplants that take place due to the selfless choice our donors and families make is an amazing gift. Giving the gift of life to another is one of the most selfless and heroic choices a person can make.
“It is known that many of us would take an organ if we needed one but it takes a special person to give this gift to others. I hope organ donation week will raise awareness of the wonderful gift of life and encourage people to make a choice about their end of life wishes and share them with loved ones.”
When Donna is not at work she enjoys spending time with her family, reading and travelling. She loves sports and enjoys roller skating.