Amazing moves to set up group for transplant recipients in Harrogate district

In a momentous year for organ donation campaigners, which will see the introduction of new opt-out legislation in spring, a Harrogate family is launching a vital support network for transplant recipients and those who are on the waiting list.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 6:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 6:05 pm

Kerry Morrison, whose daughter Lynda’s life was saved by a heart transplant 25 years ago, is determined to send out the message that nobody has to go through this life-changing journey alone, and as well as creating a support system, would like the group to be a gateway to forming friendships, socialising, and having fun outings with people who have a strong common ground.

Kerry, whose close friend Lee Milne is also helping to start up the group, said: “A local donor support network could be so valuable - illness brings so much worry, so many changes, and talk of new treatments and medication.

Kerry Morrison with her daughter Lynda and close friend Lee Milne. Picture: Gerard Binks.

“A local support network could provide a hub for transplant recipients to share knowledge, to help each other, and provide support for those currently on the waiting list.

“The gift of a donor heart saved our daughter’s life in the summer of 1994, and has kept our family complete for these 25 years. The opting out system will bring the possibility of so many more potential organs and save so many lives.

“Last year over 400 people died while on that waiting list. How wonderful it would be for the transplant teams to be able to save even more lives.”

Kerry also emphasised the power and importance of continuing to have open and frank conversations around transplantation. She said: “It will always be so important to have conversations around organ donation with our close relatives and friends.

Campaigner and research scientist Claire Corps from Ripon.

"We need to go beyond ticking a box, and in these conversations we can confirm our personal thoughts and desires. When a life is ended, comfort can come from knowing that wishes have been fulfilled, and other lives have been transformed.”

The idea for an established support network was born out of an uplifting event held at the Mercer Gallery and in the Valley Gardens, also organised by Kerry to celebrate organ donation. It was very well-supported and attended by transplant recipients from across the Harrogate district.

Among the inspirational attendees was Claire Corps from Ripon, who has had both a kidney and liver transplant, and now helps others by working as a research scientist in transplantation in Leeds, and campaigning to raise national awareness.

Claire said: “I owe everything to my donors and their families, and I remember them in my prayers daily. Knowing that you aren’t the only person who has been down the path of transplantation helps enormously, and knowing others understand helps too, so I think the new support network would really make a difference.

"This year I celebrate 40 years of my kidney transplant, without that wonderful gift I would not be here today. I was a child on dialysis prior to my transplant, I had very little energy and was sick much of the time. After my kidney transplant everything changed - I had energy and was able to get on with my life.

"In my twenties I went on to have liver failure due to the same disease that had destroyed my kidney. Thankfully I was lucky enough to get a liver transplant in October 1997, which again is working beautifully. That transplant gift has allowed me to live. This may sound dramatic, but I know I had only a few weeks left to live without a new liver.

"Since my liver transplant I have gone on to get my PhD and work in the field of transplantation."

Kerry would love to hear from anybody who is interested in joining the support network. Email [email protected] to get in touch with her and find out more.

Backing from leading figure in the profession

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust has backed the idea. Dr Sarah Marsh, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and Clinical Lead, said: “While receiving a donated organ is life-saving, we know from experience what a big step it can be for recipients.

"Receiving a donated organ is a major operation, and often people have been waiting a long while, so it can take its toll physically and mentally. A local support network to help donor families sounds really positive.”