A mother-of-two whose life was saved by two transplants is calling on Banbury Guardian readers to talk about organ donation and consider joining the register.
New figures show 27 people from Oxfordshire died waiting for a transplant in the last five years, while 57 were saved by a donated organ in 2017.
The NHS is urging families to discuss their wishes for their organs when they die as part of Organ Donation Week, which started on Monday.
Valerie Pinfold is able to work and enjoy life with her two daughters after a liver transplant in 2015 – the first one failed so another donor had to be found in 72 hours.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fact that two people agreed to donate their organs,” said the 51-year-old mum from Chipping Norton.
“So I will always be grateful to them and their families for agreeing to it as they have the final decision even though they signed up. It’s obviously a really difficult time when you have just lost someone but if that person has said they want to donate then it makes the decision for the family a bit easier.
“I do understand why people are a bit funny about it but you have to think about it basically and think what use are they when you’re not alive and there’s always a lot of ill people out there who need transplants.”
Valerie was diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) in 2007 , an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the bile in the liver.
It was not until 2013 when her condition became unmanageable, she was so ill that work at the Co-op was impossible, and a transplant operation was arranged as her liver was beyond repair.
The initial donated liver quickly failed as a clot cut the blood supply, so doctors had a matter of days to find Valerie a new one while she was sedated in intensive care and her family were worried sick.
Luckily another liver was found, which did not fail, but following the operation Valerie had to learn how to walk again as her muscles were so weak.
A bout of pneumonia extended her stay in hospital to six weeks but she said her family helped her get through it.
“It was hard but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, my two daughters looked after me brilliantly,” she said.
Another reason organ donation is close to Valerie’s family’s hearts is that her daughters’ father had a kidney transplant due to a hereditary disease, putting the kids at greater risk of needing one.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register or to find out more information, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.