Thank you for coming tonight, to celebrate Donor Day! I won’t bore you for too long!
I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about me and my campaign, for those of you that don’t already know.
Today is World Health Day, but I’m tackling an issue that is close to my heart, or should I say kidney? This year, 1,000 people in the UK alone will die because of the shortage of donor organs. There are 8,000 people in the UK currently waiting for an organ transplant that could save or transform their life. 90% of people in the UK, when questioned, said they would allow their organs to be used. Yet only 23% have signed up. Statistically, you are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor.
In the time it takes me to read this, or boil the kettle for a cup of tea, you could have signed up to the Organ Donor Register and helped save a life. I am passionate about encouraging as many people as possible to sign up; to close the gap between the number of people saying they would and those that actually do. I’m doing this because I know only too well what waiting on the transplant list is like.
I was a perfectly healthy teenager when suddenly, just after Christmas in 2004, I was taken ill and rushed into hospital. Eventually a scan of my kidneys showed they had shrunk and were no longer doing the job they were supposed to. At this point I was told I had End Stage Renal Failure (ESRF) and needed to go on dialysis immediately, which I would remain on for the foreseeable future until a suitable donor kidney was found for a transplant. As you can imagine this came as a huge shock to both me and my family, I was only 17!
From then on, I required dialysis 3 times a week for 3 hours at a time and waited patiently for that phone call saying the transplant was going to take place. The dialysis itself was restrictive, time-consuming and had unpleasant side-effects including low energy levels, tiring easily and almost constant nausea. However I continued with my studies at college and went on to university.
I first heard about The Battlefront Project back in September 2008 at this point I was still on dialysis trying to raise awareness at every available opportunity about the importance of Organ Donation. Becoming an advocate for the Live Life Then Give Life charity made me feel very proud and made me feel like I was doing something to help. They support people waiting for transplants and fund projects that increase the numbers of successful transplants in the UK. They have been a huge help to me and my family and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team!
I am now 21 and I am pleased to say my story has a happy ending, as in October 2008 I received the call I had been waiting over 3 years for, a suitable kidney had been found and the transplant took place that evening. In the same week I also found out I had won the competition to become the 20th Battlefront Campaigner! Obviously I was still recovering from my Op so I wasn’t able to get as hands on as I would have liked, that is where the wonderful Emily Thackray came to my rescue! She stepped in and took the reigns until I was strong enough to get campaigning!
Life since my transplant is barely recognisable from that before kidney failure and dialysis, I have my health back I am enjoying the freedom from dialysis and the fact I can do normal everyday things that people take for granted. I can now socialise with my friends, eat and drink what I want. My family have got the old Holly back. Since my transplant I have been places I have never been, experienced things I have never experienced before and met people that I would never have met.
I am determined to use my new found freedom to promote the plight of others on the waiting list by encouraging more people to become organ donors.
The Gift of Life campaign aims to promote the benefits of signing up to the Organ Donor Register, and create discussion and debate around the issue, clearing up the myths and misconceptions many people seem to have about organ donation!
Donor Day took place today with volunteers up and down the country getting involved and setting up their own Donor Desks, from Warrington, to Birmingham, to Liverpool and of course the flagship Donor Desk in Canary Wharf! Many people have become 2 minute heroes today - if only one person had signed up today, that would have been enough for me!
I have so many people to thank for making this happen, firstly The Battlefront team and channel 4, I would never have dreamed my little idea would have turned into this! My fantastically supportive family for putting up with me and my moods when things weren’t going my way! People from organisations such as NHS Blood and Transplant and LLTGL, companies such as Dave, Moo.com and Airlock and of course Adam Street for hosting this event tonight!
Oli Barrett my mentor who has helped me immensely and kept me focussed in my ideas, he has also introduced me to so many influential people including Amy Maclaren who has been there at the end of the phone when I have been having a panic, but she has also helped me get the message out there and into the media, and when Oli jetted off to America in the run up to today he left me a great replacement mentor in Michelle Acton-Bond.
Thanks to all of Holly’s Helpers and everyone who agreed to be interviewed or filmed , including my Transplant Surgeon and the nurses at The Royal Liverpool Hospital! Emily – my right hand woman, what can I say, you’re a shining star! You know how much it means to me that you have shared this journey with me, Thanks!
But last, and most importantly my donor as without them, none of this would have been possible I will be eternally grateful to the donor and their family for giving me this chance at a new life. I intend to make the most of my precious “Gift of Life” and I am going to take this campaign forward and continue raising as much awareness as I possibly can for all the people who aren’t here today because their wait was too long and those still fighting on, waiting for that transplant that they so deserve.
Thank you and enjoy your evening!