‘We get involved when the doctors can do no more’ says nurse that talks families through organ donation

File photo dated 11/04/10 of a general view of a person signing up for an NHS Donor card. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 12, 2011. New guidance designed to boost the number of organs for transplant has been issued to the NHS. It contains advice on how staff should approach families as their loved ones near the end of their lives, including using 'positive' phrases to describe donation and avoiding 'apologetic or negative language'. Some 29% of people are on the organ donor register but donation rates in the UK remain poor. Experts believe one reason may be because bereaved relatives do not consent to the process. More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant and around 1,000 people die every year waiting for an organ. See PA story HEALTH Organs. Photo credit should read: Clive Gee/PA Wire
File photo dated 11/04/10 of a general view of a person signing up for an NHS Donor card. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 12, 2011. New guidance designed to boost the number of organs for transplant has been issued to the NHS. It contains advice on how staff should approach families as their loved ones near the end of their lives, including using 'positive' phrases to describe donation and avoiding 'apologetic or negative language'. Some 29% of people are on the organ donor register but donation rates in the UK remain poor. Experts believe one reason may be because bereaved relatives do not consent to the process. More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant and around 1,000 people die every year waiting for an organ. See PA story HEALTH Organs. Photo credit should read: Clive Gee/PA Wire

The Gazette is campaigning to get people to sign up as a potential life saver by joining the Organ Donor Register.

Last week sixth formers from Adeyfield School joined the drive by joining the newspaper’s awareness raising stall in Marlowes Shopping Centre on a sweltering hot Saturday.

This week the Gazette has spoken to one of the nursing team that helps families to make the decision to donate a loved one’s organs after tragedy has struck.

Daina Moyo says the best part of her job is the thank you letters she gets afterwards from families who have faced the heartbreak and devastation of losing someone close to them.

The specialist nurse for organ donation – a vital job that goes by the unflattering acronym SNOD – covers Watford General Hospital and Harlow’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

She is part of an 18-strong team that is on call 24 hours a day to cover the entire Eastern region.

Daina, who was previously an intensive care and A&E nurse – one of the prerequisites of becoming part of the SNOD team – said: “We get involved when doctors have come to the end of the road, when they cannot do any more for the patient.

“Our role is to support the family, to give them information about what is happening.

“It is basically being on their side to support them at that time. When the subject of organ donation comes up we approach the family to say: Your loved one could help other people.

“It’s a challenging role.

“We approach at a point when we see the family is ready – there is no timescale.

“You can see that the family has accepted death. We do not approach organ donation at a point when they have not accepted death, and that is very important.”

The nurse with 27 years experience under her belt said you can tell when families have come to terms with what is happening by the conversations they are having.

“You can actually see that they have accepted it,” said the 48 year old.

So what attracted the Zimbabwe-born nurse to such a difficult job?

“It is quite rewarding to know that at least you supported someone during a time when there was immense grief,” said Daina.

“We get letters from families thanking us for supporting them during that time and letters from patients saying they are doing well thanks to their donor family.

“It is then that you think this is wonderful and you share that with the donor family as well.”

Every year the specialist nurses write to donor families - if they have opted to continue communication - to tell them how the recipient, who remains anonymous, is doing and this relationship can go on for as long as the family wish.

SNODs were introduced under a Department of Health initiative in 2008 because donor rates in the UK are low compared to other countries in Europe.

In the UK three people die every day while waiting for an organ and there is around 8,000 currently on the waiting list.

The organs from one person can save the lives of up to nine people.

Daina said: “If you want to be on the organ donor register the most important thing is to let your loved ones know about your wishes. It does help a lot if the time ever does come because the family is going through immense grief and on the other hand they have to sit down to start making decisions and some families say: ‘They never said, they didn’t tell them their wishes’,

“It takes the pressure off them. They will say: ‘Yes, we know what they wanted’.

“It is so, so important.”

>To find out about signing up to the Organ Donor Register click here