During organ donation week (4-10 September) we are highlighting the importance of organ donation.

Alice Workman and Helen Foley, pictured above left to right, are specialist nurses for organ donation based at the Royal Free Hospital and Barnet Hospital. Their role is to support families and be a ‘voice for the patient’. Last year seven Royal Free London patients became organ donors which changed the lives of 22 patients who received transplants through their gift.

Alice and Helen both worked in intensive care for a number of years before making the switch to become specialist nurses for organ donation.

“For me it all comes down to the importance of good end of life care,” says Alice.  “When someone is dying it is about helping to support their family through that incredibly hard time and making sure they understand the information we are giving them.”

Helen adds: “We are the patient’s advocate. We ensure they are cared for and that their wishes are taken into account. It can be of great comfort to families and loved ones at a time of grief to know they are carrying out those wishes.

“The challenge is to make sure that every patient that could potentially be an organ donor has us to speak to their family to offer donation. Whatever the family’s decision, the important thing is they have been given that choice and have been able to make an informed decision.”

Alice and Helen would like to encourage families to talk openly about donation and find out how family members feel about organ donation. They advise anyone who wishes to become an organ donor in the event of their death to sign up to the organ donor register and let family members and loved ones know their wishes.

Alice says: “We know it’s a hard conversation to have but being able to give the gift of life in what is going to be a devastating situation for families, can really give lasting comfort to your loved ones.

“My job makes me realise how generous people can be even when they are going through the worst possible experience. In a state of grieving they agree to the donation for their loved one and by doing so give the gift of life.”

Helen says: “It is not just the life of the person that receives the organ that is transformed but that of their loved ones and their families. It touches so many people’s lives.”

Both nurses agree that it is vital that families are given the information, support and time they need to come to a decision. They also want to highlight the importance of not only signing up to the organ donor register but taking the time to have the conversation with your nearest and dearest about organ donation.

For more information and to sign up to the organ donation register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.