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Fight for change in Sarah's memory

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 15, 2012

By Fran McElhone

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THE family of an Exmouth mum of three who lost her battle for life while waiting for a double lung transplant have vowed to continue their campaign to get the organ donor scheme changed to an opt-out system.

Sarah Wright, who was suffering from advanced lung disease, had been in intensive care at Harefield Hospital in London for more than two weeks when she died last Friday, November 9. The 36-year-old saved the lives of three other people who received her kidneys and liver by means of organ donation.

Both Sarah's husband Richie, and her dad Steve Gazzard believe that Sarah's life may have been saved if the current organ donor system required people to opt out rather than opt in.

The Echo has followed the story of Sarah's campaign, which was kick-started by a sponsored cycle from Exmouth to Darts Farm organised by her 10-year-old son Harry, in aid of the British Lung Foundation.

The youngster's efforts inspired other members of the community to host their own awareness and fundraising events.

"I only signed up to be a donor about five months ago, so I understand it requires effort and often gets forgotten," said Richie.

"Only around 29 per cent of the country's population have signed up to be donors. If the system required people to opt-out, the chances of other people on the transplant waiting list surviving, would increase. We don't want other people to go through what we have."

During her time at Harefield, Sarah had been put on dialysis because both her kidneys had become damaged. Her liver had also become damaged but Sarah's body fought back and repaired the organs just two days before she died, meaning she was able to donate them to others.

"The hardest thing was seeing the effect the condition was having on Sarah. She loved life and was really active but at one point she couldn't get out of bed for five days. A double lung transplant survivor from Exeter who I met at the hospital sent Sarah a get well card and it said – you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

"Sarah was a fighter. She fought to the end, managing to repair her kidneys and liver so they could be donated, which is what she would have wanted. That she was able to do this has been some comfort."

As previously reported by the Echo, Sarah's dad Steve recently wrote to East Devon MP Hugo Swire who in turn contacted Health Minister Jeremy Hunt, as part of his campaign to get the law changed, in the hope of saving lives. Mr Gazzard is adamant that the current opt-in scheme is resulting in available organs being "wasted".

He has now written to Mr Swire asking him to raise the issue in Parliament but the MP said his new role as Minister for the Foreign Office prevented him from doing so. Mr Gazzard is now urging people to write to the MP to encourage action on the issue.

"Our campaign continues," he said. "I made Sarah three promises – to continue the campaign to get people to sign-up, to continue the campaign to get the system changed, and to help raise funds for Harefield Hospital to buy a scanner which would help with diagnosing liver and heart complications.

"All the nurses we spoke to who looked after Sarah who read the stories in the Echo, said without exception that the system should change because the current system is resulting in a tragic loss of life every day."

An awareness day, supported by Exmouth's community radio station Bay FM is taking place in the Strand gardens on Saturday, November 24.

To sign the petition to change the organ donor scheme to opt-out, go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38220. To register as an organ donor visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt or phone 0300 123 2323.

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