by Laura Woodcock, Evening Gazette, UK
A TEESSIDER whose life has been transformed by organ donation is backing a new scheme which will urge people to sign up and become a donor.
Craig O’Neill, who had a lifesaving heart transplant in 2005, is backing a plan which will see people applying for a driving licence having to state if they want to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register or defer a decision until a later date.
Until now a decision has been optional but not compulsory so this change, which comes into effect in July, is one the Department of Health hopes will boost the numbers of those willing to register.
And Craig knows all too well how important it is to become a donor as the 28-year-old was born with congenital heart disease and had a number of operations before he was told a heart transplant was his only option.
Now, Craig who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Transplant Games in Australia in 2009, is enjoying life to the full - and says he urges people every day to sign up and become a donor.
He said: “I think this scheme is a good idea.
“Think of how many people carry a driving licence but not a donor card. This could really boost the amount of donors.”
At present, only 27% of people in the UK are registered donors and getting more people to sign-up could save the lives of some of the 8,000 people in the UK currently waiting for a transplant.
Craig, from Billingham who works in operations at Boots, said: “Becoming a donor is so important - I would not be here right now if it wasn’t for my heart transplant.
“I encourage people all the time to become donors and hope this change can make a real difference.”
The Evening Gazette is continuing to call on Teessiders to sign up to the national organ donor register with our Become A Donor campaign.