Welsh donors: What it's like to wait for an organ transplant

Sophie Washington

Under a new law in Wales, it's now assumed you're happy to donate your organs when you die.

You don't need to fill in a form or tell your friends and family. It's hoped this will increase the number of donors in the country.

Anyone unhappy with the idea can opt out at any time.

20-year old Sophie Washington explains what it's like to wait for a life-saving transplant.

Sophie Washington
Image caption Sophie, just before her transplant

'I was alive but it was more of an existence than a life'

For years, Sophie's life revolved around long stays in hospital and care at home.

Born with several health complications, Sophie, from Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, then developed a life-threatening form of brittle diabetes.

"From Year 8 to A-levels, I didn't really go to school. I didn't get to see my friends that often. I was sort of living one day to the next, not knowing where I'd wake up - or if I'd wake up at all," she says.

"I was alive but it was more of an existence than a life."

After years of failed attempts to get her diabetes under control, she was was put on the waiting list for a new pancreas.

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There are currently 224 people on the Welsh transplant waiting list, including eight children. That's compared with 209 at the end of March 2014.

"Waiting for a transplant is really difficult because you're waiting for someone else to die before you can start living again.

"You never know whether that call is going to come in time. I could and probably should've died a number of times," says Sophie.

After a two year wait, the call finally came. It was the middle of the night and within an hour, a helicopter landed outside her house to rush her to London for surgery.

A medical bag labelled 'human organ for transplant'

"When the call comes you've got so many emotions. You're so excited that it's come and joyful that you can start living your life again.

"But at the same time, in the back of your mind, you know there's a family out there mourning the loss of a loved one."

The operation went well and two years on, life is much better for Sophie. She did her A-levels and has started a psychology degree.

She knows how lucky she is to have had a transplant and thinks the law change is great.

"So many people aren't against the idea, they just haven't got round to thinking about it.

"If someone really is against the idea, they can still opt out but for the hundreds of thousands of people who don't think about it - they're now potential donors," she says.

Sophie Washington
Image caption Sophie, healthier and happier

Sophie still needs to a use a wheelchair occasionally due to her other health problems but the transplant undoubtedly saved her life.

"My life now is just a completely new life," says Sophie.

Some have argued against the law change, saying friends and family won't be allowed to overrule their loved one's decision.

"I often wonder about those who don't want to be donor. What if they needed a transplant one day, or someone they loved needed one, Maybe then, they'd feel differently."

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