Last year, the U.K. saw the highest number of people donating their organs after they died, the NHS has said – and they enhanced thousands of lives as a result.
Ben Glean from Grimsby was one of 1,575 deceased U.K. donors whose donated organs saved others in 2017-18 – an 11 percent increase on the previous financial year, and the highest number on record. He died aged 18 at the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in December 2017, after suffering a cardiac arrest from undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.
He had told his family he supported organ donation, describing it as a "no brainer". This meant his organs went on to help five people: his kidneys were transplanted into two men in their thirties, his liver into a man in his fifties, and his corneas were used for two sight-saving transplants.
His mum, Karen Glean, 49, said: "I knew what Ben wanted, because we'd had the conversation, which made it easier for me. In my darkest time, there was a light to be shone for someone else."
Recalling her son's death, Karen said: "The intensive care unit was absolutely incredible. They were completely honest with me and answered countless questions. There aren't words enough to thank those amazing nurses for the respect shown to my son, even after we knew there was no hope of him recovering."
Ben had just passed the first stage in his application to become a special constable, and his ambition was to join the police force after he'd completed his A Levels and, in his own words, "make a difference".
Ben supported Karen through her heart attack in 2012 and then cancer treatment for lymphoma in 2015. He told his mum he was in support of donation, but had not yet got around to joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Fewer than 5,000 people die in circumstances where organ donation is possible in the U.K. each year, so it is vital that individuals who wish to donate make it known and their families support their decision.
Despite last year witnessing the highest number of donors in the U.K. ever, Sally Johnson, NHS blood and transplant director of organ donation and transplantation, said there's still a "deadly shortage" of donors.
"I am so grateful to all those families who have chosen to help others at a time of personal tragedy," she said. "This news will give hope to the desperately ill people who are waiting for that lifesaving phone call."
"The increase in donations and transplants is made possible thanks to the generosity of donors and their families. It also reflects the hard work of all the NHS staff who make this incredible service possible."
To find out more about organ donation in South Africa and how to become an organ donor, click here.