Little-known role helped 30 families donate loved ones’ organs

Specialist nurses for organ donation. Natalie Ashley, Debbie Walford, Marika Valiaho Byline: Sonya D

Specialist nurses for organ donation. Natalie Ashley, Debbie Walford, Marika Valiaho Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

It is a little known role making a big difference in supporting families considering donating their loved ones organs when they die.

And for the three specialist organ donation nurses who cover all of Norfolk and Waveney, it is the front line in ensuring the decisions made are the right ones.

Debbie Walford, Marika Valiaho, and Natalie Ashley cover the three hospitals in our area.

Miss Walford, 28, said: 'We're based in hospitals across the county and we do on call as well which covers the whole region of 22 hospitals.

'Our job is basically to assess people who are possibly able to donate their organs, speak to their families, and then support them through.'

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Debbie Walford.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Debbie Walford.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018 - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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As soon as the decision is made in any of Norfolk's hospitals that a patient will start receiving end of life care, one of the trio is immediately involved in the discussion.

The idea is their specialist training means they can explore the patient's decision or the families wishes, providing specific donation information tailored to the individual case.

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But they were keen to stress it was not about strong-arming a family into donating, but just ensuring they had all the information.

'Usually the patient is unable to express their wishes,' Miss Walford, from Brundall, said. 'But it's really humbling because you realise how amazing people are and how selfless they can be, when they're going through the worst time for those families to still think of others, it's a privilege to be in a position to work with them.'

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Marika ValiahoByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Marika ValiahoByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Usually they see patients who have come into A&E or who are in intensive care, but they can be called to any department.

'We went through a stage of being called to four or five people a day,' Miss Ashley, 44, from Little Plumstead, said.

But through the nurses' work, 30 Norfolk patients donated organs Between April last year and March this year, and 68 patients were transplanted.

'It's thanks to the generosity of those families,' Miss Valiabo, 36, from Norwich, said.

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Natalie AshleyByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018

Specialist nurses for organ donation.Natalie AshleyByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But they were also keen for families to have conversations about organ donation before it got to the stage where they intervened.

'I don't think a lot of people realise their families can overturn their decision,' Miss Walford said. 'And a lot of the time the family only say no because they don't know their loved ones wishes.'

• For more information on organ donation, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

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