Friday, 10 July 2009

We're all going on a summer holiday...

A quick blog before I finish my packing for my first summer holiday POST TRANSPLANT!

It will also be my first holiday with Abigail... I'm so looking forward to it!

Here are a couple of pictures from the talks at Turton High School

Me and Carol

Me and Carol with the Deputy Head Mrs T Lewyckyj

In other news... I was interviewed this week by ThanksTo, if you haven't heard of it before it is a new website for thanking the people who make a real difference to your life and giving recognition to the people who deserve it most. Not just the ones who get paid the most or the celebrities in the media spotlight, but the ordinary people who are ‘just doing their job’: the teachers who inspire generations of kids to achieve greatness, the doctors who go beyond the call of duty day in and day out, the servicemen who risk their lives for our country.

Let’s also remember the small things that make a big difference: the stranger who carried your bags up the stairs, the neighbour who babysat your cat, the friend who was a shoulder to cry on.

ThanksTo is about recognising these acts of kindness, so even if you remain anonymous, your message will be enjoyed by others and will hopefully put a smile on someone’s face.

Here is the interview:

This week is National Transplant Week and when we read Holly Shaw’s message: “Eternally Grateful” on where she thanked her donor for giving her the gift of life, we felt her message just had to be shared.

Since her transplant in 2008, Holly won Channel Four’s Battlefront competition, appeared live on GMTV, Sky News and in a documentary of her experience called The Gift of Life, held a National Donor Day where 3500 people signed up, which is more than 15 times the average daily registration, and been recognised by the prime minister for all her efforts!

We managed to get an interview with Holly and asked her about how she found out she had End Stage Renal Failure, how her life has changed since her transplant, and how ThanksTo helped her to share that experience.

Interview with Holly Shaw

How did you find out about the ThanksTo site?
I found out about ThanksTo via a friend on Facebook who also happens to be my campaign mentor; Oli Barrett. He is a social entrepreneur and has helped me immensely with my campaign, the television documentary and the organisation of Donor Day!

Why did you decide to write a thank you?
I decided to write a thank you as I received the best gift anyone could ever receive: the Gift of Life, through a kidney transplant. I thanked my donor and their family as without them I wouldn't be leading the life I am now.

My life now is barely recognisable from when I was on dialysis; I have got my health back and I am enjoying the freedom from all the machines; I have been to places I have never been to before, experienced things I have never experienced before and met people that I would never have met before. 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.

When were you diagnosed and how did you feel after you were told?
When I was 17 years old I was taken ill just after Christmas in 2004, and rushed into hospital. Various blood tests and injections took place and eventually a scan of my kidneys showed that they had shrunk and were no longer doing the job they were supposed to. The doctors told me I had End Stage Renal Failure (ESRF) and that I needed to go on dialysis immediately. From then on, I required dialysis three times a week for three hours at a time and I had a strict fluid restriction of 500mls per day and a special diet. The dialysis itself was restrictive, time-consuming and had unpleasant side-effects including low energy levels, tiring easily and almost constant nausea.

As you can imagine this came as a huge shock to both; me and my family, and my mum and dad went through the tests to see if they could become a donor for me but they weren't suitable. I was on the waiting list for over three years undertaking 600 dialysis sessions in that time and everyday I waited patiently for that phone call saying the transplant was going to take place.

After your transplant, you started running campaigns for organ donors. What have you been doing and have you had many success stories?
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. In September 2008 I entered a competition for Channel Four’s new initiative Battlefront - a project aimed at getting young people actively involved in campaigning about a cause in which they believe – and I found out I had won the competition the same week I received my transplant (October 2008).

I am also raising awareness about organ donation through The Gift of Life campaign which aims to promote the benefits of signing up to the Organ Donor Register, and create discussion and debate around the issue. For four months I was followed around by a camera crew from Channel 4 to show how my campaign has developed and to document the need for more Organ Donors, it was then aired in May.

I recently organised a National Donor Day on 7th April 2009, with the help of volunteers and Oli Barrett which were provided through Battlefront. Donor Day was built around asking people to go online and sign the Organ Donor Register and then to promote the fact they had done so via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

In addition, I coordinated an army of volunteers who were not only willing to man Donor Desks up and down the country but were also willing to talk to people about organ donation and encourage them to sign a registration form. The flagship Donor Desk was situated in Canary Wharf. I also appeared live on GMTV and Sky News to promote Donor Day and wrote a Guardian Online article. For the first time in its history the Metro newspaper changed its masthead to support Donor Day. I also took part in various North West radio interviews throughout that day and the following days.

On the afternoon of Donor Day, the campaign had become the second most re-tweeted tweet on Twitter and over 3500 people had signed up more than 15 times the average daily registration rate. There was also an increase in calls to the Organ Donor Line. I have had support from celebrities such as Connie Fisher, Fay Ripley and the mum of X Factor winner Alexandra Burke who is waiting for a Kidney Transplant. I was also proud that my efforts were recognised by the Prime Minister who released a quote of support for my campaign. In a statement on the No 10 website the Prime Minister said:

“I want to give my support and thanks to Holly Shaw and all those involved in her campaign. Joining the organ donation register is a selfless act of kindness which can save many lives and offer new hope for potentially thousands of families across the country.”

Because this week is National Transplant Week I have done three talks at the same school with different year groups each day informing them about organ donation.

Do you think people are more informed about organ donation now than they were before?
I feel that using social networking sites and the internet is a great way in reaching a large amount of people quickly! It was my main method of getting the word out about my campaign. I used sites such as Bebo, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, my own website and the Battlefront website.

ThanksTo was a great way to thank the people that were involved with making donor day happen, and to the people who have supported me in my campaign. I keep up to date with the latest Thank You messages on ThanksTo via the website and Twitter. I think it is a great way for people to show their appreciation for kind things people have done for them. What special way to show your kindness than to become an Organ Donor?

ThanksTo allowed me to publicly thank my donor, although I knew they would never read it I wanted to show my appreciation for this precious gift. I intend to cherish it and make the most of every minute! Life is so much brighter now; with so much to look forward to!

I will be eternally grateful to the donor and their family; they will always hold a special place in my heart.

To read Holly’s Thank you message go to:

Right thats it for now... I will do a massive blog update when I get back, with lots of pictures.

Oh and while I am away please keep Gabrysia in your thoughts, she received a new heart last night after waiting all her life for a transplant, read more about her here! Thoughts and best wishes to her and her family but also the speical donor family who said yes to organ donation at such a tragic time for them.


  1. Enjoy your first holiday post transplant :D Looking forward to seeing some photos when you return.

    I'd not heard of ThanksTo before, but it sounds like a great idea. Your interview is great and your Thank You Message is lovely :)

    Moll x x

  2. Thinking of little Gabrysia and her family and of course the donor family too.

    Moll x x

  3. You're amazing as always lovely! Hope you have the best ever holiday! xxxx