‘My life was changed by a stranger donating 9 organs – I can’t thank him enough’

A man whose life was changed when a stranger donated him a liver has backed a new campaign to get people talking about organ donation.

The Government has launched a £12million public awareness drive after the Mirror’s suc­­cessful fight for Max and Keira’s Law.

The NHS-backed initiative starts today ahead of the introduction of an new donation opt-out system next spring.

The Pass It On campaign will run for 12 months and use posters, TV, radio and social media to get the message across that unless you opt out, you have opted in to donate your organs.

The gift of donating organs can have life-changing benefits to others – as Sheffield artist Pete McKee, 53, knows all too well.

In May 2017 Mark Piotr died unexpectedly after a catastrophic brain bleed.

The death of the 48-year-old led to eight transplants after he donated his heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, corneas and tissue.

Mark, from Bradford, met his wife Karen, now 50, as teenagers and they married in 1993.

Both were blood donors and signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Karen says: “Through his selfless act Mark saved and improved the lives of eight people. I knew it’s what he would have wanted.

“I thought of the recipients who would be getting the news that an organ had been found, this brought me hope in my darkest hours.

It made such a difference that I knew he wanted to be a donor. Even though the law is changing, it’s important to talk about your wishes.”

One of the grateful recipients was Sheffield artist Pete  who desperately needed a new liver.

He has said: “I will never be able to thank Karen and Mark enough.”

The new campaign aims to show such benefits of organ donation.

Parliamentary Under Secretary Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Far too many people in need of an organ transplant are still dying on a waiting list.

“We hope that Max and Keira’s Law will save hundreds of lives when it comes into effect next year but, until then, it’s vital people understand what the new law means for them.”

The Government hopes the law change will help increase organ donation, and save up to 700 lives a year.

The law, named after Mirror boy Max Johnson, 11, and his nine-year-old heart donor Keira Ball, will mean that in England adults are presumed to have agreed to donate organs unless they opt out.

But it will still be possible for relatives to veto transplants, so it is vital people make their wishes known.

Ms Doyle-Price said: “I want to reassure everyone that choosing to give the gift of life still is, and always will remain, a personal decision. I strongly urge people to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and make their decision clear.”

Every day, across the UK, three people who could have benefited from a transplant die due to a lack of donor organs.

While there are 6,000 transplant patients on the waiting list, eight out of 10 people in England say they would definitely donate or would consider donating organs – but only a third have told their family their wishes.

The NHS Blood and Transplant poll found that only 37% of over-16s in England are aware that the law is changing.

Only 21% of 16 to 20-year-olds and 27% of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds knew of the change. Among over-55s, 50% knew of the change.

The Pass It On cam­­paign features a person holding a balloon in the shape of a heart or other organ. As they release it, another hand takes hold of the string.

Anthony Clarkson, donation director at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Organ donation is, and always will be, a precious gift.

“Although the law is changing, it will still be the generosity of individual donors and their families who decide to support organ donation, which will ensure more transplants can happen and more lives can be saved.

“We want everyone to know the law is changing. We want them to make their organ donation decision and to share that decision with family.”

The law will not apply to under-18s, people lacking capacity to understand the law and those who have lived in England for less than a year.

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