Nine seriously-ill patients from Blackpool died before they could get an organ transplant in the last 10 years, new figures have revealed.
More people have now been urged to sign up to the organ transplant register so the nine people currently stuck on a waiting list don’t suffer the same fate.
Across Lancashire, 134 people have died while on the waiting list in the past decade, with 133 now in need of a life-saving transplant.
“It’s a tragedy that people are dying unnecessarily every year in Lancashire waiting for transplants,” assistant director of organ donation and transportation for the NHS, Anthony Clarkson said.
“We know that if everyone who supported donation talked about it and agreed to donate, most of those lives would be saved.”
Health chiefs said a reluctance to talk about the issue – with death and dying still a taboo subject for many – means families often don’t know their loved one wanted to donate, and often decide it is safer to say no.
That, they claimed, means hundreds of transplants aren’t being carried out every year.
Debbie Johnson, who donated her husband’s organs after he died suddenly from a brain haemorrage, has called on people to be more open with each other.
The 46-year-old, of Heeley Road in St Annes, said her decision would have been made easier has she and Johne discussed their wishes.
She added: “What made me go through with it at that time was I didn’t want anybody to feel the pain I was feeling.
“Afterwards, I thought about how horrible it must be to know your life depends on somebody else dying.
“There was no question about it, for me it was a definite.”
Speaking as Organ Donation Weeks gets underway, Mr Clarkson added: “A few words now can make an extraordinary difference. It will also make things much easier for your family to make the right decision.
“If you want to save lives, don’t leave it too late to talk to your family. In Lancashire, there are more than 521,000 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register. However, if you want to be a donor, your family’s support is still needed for donation to go ahead.
“If you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant? Would you accept a life-saving organ?
“If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”
There is a particular need for black and Asian people to donate, with 29 from the county currently awaiting a transplant.
Patients from these communities make up 29 per cent of the national transplant waiting list but are less likely to agree to donations, the NHS Blood and Transplant service said.
And a survey found 80 per cent of people support organ donation, but only around 49 per cent have ever talked about it.
Women are 30 per cent more likely to trigger a conversation than men.
Cleveleys youngster Poppy Hughes-Wilson had a Christmas to remember three years ago after receiving a life-saving five organ transplant.
The then-seven year old had her small and large bowel, liver, pancrease, and stomach replaced, after waiting 11 months.
Poppy was diagnosed with Ehler Danlos Syndrome – a condition which caused intestinal failure, meaning her bowel and stomach didn’t work properly – when she was 20 months old.
Mum Kim Hughes said: “She got sicker and sicker – we had no choice. The call for the transplants came at the right time.”
A young woman who had a lung transplant and another who allowed her dead husband’s organs to be used to save the lives of others urged others to do the same.
Rosie Neath had surgery when she was 27 because of cystic fibrosis, which left her fighting for her life after returning home from holiday in December 2014 and suffering lung failure.
Luckily a donor was found for the former Collegiate School pupil and NHS worker and she was rushed to Manchester for a double lung transplant.
Jo Haythornthwaite, from St Annes, lost her husband John to a brain haemorrhage eight years ago, but wanted his organs to help other people desperate for transplants.
Since then she has campaigned to get other people to sign up to the register to help the thousands of waiting patients.
Lee Coulthard, organ donation specialist nurse at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “For those in need of a transplant, the wait can be agonising yet there is a huge expectation that a donor organ will become available.
“Sadly, however, three people die every day waiting for that important call.”
Help didn’t come in time for tragic Faith Ong, 14, who died from liver disease while waiting for a transplant.
The youngster, born in Newton with Scales, had two liver transplants before she was one, and battled her way through pneumonia.
After years of relatively good health, she was told she needed another life-saving operation.
She died in February 2009, leaving her family and friends devastated.
Her mum Trevlin said: “I don’t think she ever thought she was going to die, she believed she would get a transplant. She never gave up hope.”
A three-year-old Poulton boy – who was given a liver thanks to his dad when he was a baby – ran rings around the competition at the British Transplant Games in Scotland recently.
Jack Morris-Piney won two medals, and was the youngest competitor at the event, which sees transplant patients from around the UK take part in more than 25 sports in front of 1,500 spectators.
The oldest to take part was Michael Gibbons, 81,
whose wife Ann, 78, donated one of her kidneys 10 years ago.
Michael said: “Ann is the personfication of a selfless human being, as well as my wife.
“I did not want to see her suffering, because it is a much bigger operation for the donor than the recipient.
“But she told me I don’t care, I just want you better.
“ I’ve never looked back.”
Resister had grown
Blackpool’s organ donor register has grown by almost 10,000 in just five years.
It comes as the number of resort patients being given potentially life-saving transplants also rose, from seven to 11.
In 2016, The Gazette ran the Giving the Gift of Life campaign, encouraging local people to join the organ donor register
“More people than ever in Lancashire are committing to organ donation and that is saving more lives than ever,” NHS Blood and Transplant’s Sally Johnson said.
“It’s amazing to picture all the people now alive today thanks to organ donation, and think of all the families and children who have grown up thanks to donors.”
In March 2011/12, there were 37,165 people in Blackpool on the NHS Organ Donor Register, compared to 46,679 as of this March.
And health bosses estimate there are more than 1,000 people now alive in the
county thanks to organ donations.
But more needs to be done, with a national shortage of donors meaning three people die every day in desperate need of a transplant.