Top of your Christmas list: to sign up as an organ donor

While people in Bedfordshire are looking forward to spending Christmas with their loved ones and exchanging gifts, 64 people in Bedfordshire who are on the waiting list for a transplant will be hoping they will soon get the gift of an organ.

This December, NHS Blood and Transplant is running the Christmas List campaign, to draw attention to the thousands of people who are waiting for a transplant across the UK and to encourage everyone to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Sadly, not all of those waiting will get the transplant they need. New figures show 25 patients in Bedfordshire have died while on the transplant waiting list during the past 5 years, and their families will be facing Christmas without them**.

Other people have been more fortunate and will be able to celebrate Christmas looking ahead to a brighter future. 56 patients in Bedfordshire have received a transplant already this year thanks to families agreeing to donate a loved one’s organs***.

Through its Christmas List campaign, NHS Blood and Transplant is highlighting the stories of patients waiting for a transplant and those who have received them, donor families and nurses who support families when they donate a loved one’s organs.

They include:

Kate Jakes, a three time liver recipient, who lives at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. She collapsed one night not long before her 18th birthday and was diagnosed with acute liver failure - she was put on the super-urgent list, which meant she was thought to have less than 48 hours to live.

Her body rejected the first two livers and three operations were needed. She met her future husband Gareth on a weekend away out from hospital. They got together in the May 2012 and married in July 2014.

Kate said: “Gareth has had to get used to the endless appointments and illness but I couldn’t ask for a more supportive husband. We fell for each other while I was recovering with fresh scars and it never fazed him.”

She said of Christmas time: “Every Christmas day I sit and think about my donors and their families even more then normal. I just look at my family and am so thankful my amazing donors have allowed me to experience all that I have, the best present I have ever received.”

Like many people supporting the campaign Kate wrote her own Christmas Wish List. She wrote:

I wish that no-one had to wait for transplants, especially not over the Christmas Period.

I wish people would talk more about transplant & their wishes.

I wish I could go to South Africa to Swim with Sharks!

Christmas can be a difficult time for people on the transplant waiting list. Their condition may mean they are too sick to enjoy it and many will worry it could be their last Christmas.

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, said: “Every year thousands of patients on the waiting list in Bedfordshire and around the country have a Christmas clouded with anxiety and uncertainty. Some severely ill people might spend the whole of Christmas in hospital, just hoping they get a life-saving transplant. While for others, their condition may mean they can’t enjoy Christmas traditions like the rest of us. For example, people waiting for a kidney transplant may not be able to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner because eating the wrong food may make them more unwell.

“Quite simply, there is a shortage of donated organs but if more families agreed to donate a loved one’s organs, more people would get the transplants they need.

“So when you are spending time with your loved ones this Christmas, please take a few minutes to sign the Organ Donor Register, and tell your family you’d be proud to become a donor. By telling those closest to you that you want to donate you will remove the burden of them having to guess what you would have wanted at a difficult time.”

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit, call 0300 123 23 23 or text SAVE to 62323. Once you’ve signed up tell those closest to you that you want to donate.