Easter holiday films – Seven pounds: a story of organ donation

The Easter holidays have been and gone, punctuated by too much chocolate, lie-ins and the guilt of not working. All of this however, gave me a chance to sit and enjoy some quality movies. One evening, as I settled down to choose a film (it always takes me far too long) with my last remaining Easter egg, I stumbled across a good-old Will Smith movie. Now, you wouldn’t be mistaken for wondering where I’m going with this story, but bear with me…

Seven pounds is a 2008 Drama/Romance film featuring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson among others. Without completely ruining the plot, the movie starts with the main character, Ben Thomas (Will Smith) phoning 911 to report his own suicide. Gripping stuff. The rest of the film is spent figuring out why he is committing suicide. It turns out, Ben did something he deeply regrets and so decides to do everything in his power to make up for it. To achieve this, he decides to change seven people’s lives for the better (hence the seven in the title). The catch is, Ben has to make sure they deserve it beforehand. Ben sets out to improve the lives of people from hugely different walks of life. The main way he achieves this is through organ donation. The end of the film is the most poignant, as the viewer witnesses the happiness Ben’s actions have on the people he has chosen – he massively changes their lives.

It got me thinking, although slightly morbid in parts, the film did a fantastic job of raising awareness to the power of organ donation and the huge benefits it can have on people’s lives. In light of this, I did a bit of research about organ donation and decided to dedicate this blog post to it.

Organ donation

According to the NHS Organ Donation website (https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk), organ donation is the donation of organs to individuals who require a transplant. However, a key aspect of the process is obtaining consent from both the donor and their family. This is required as much organ donation can only occur after death.

The need for organs

According to the NHS Organ Donation website:
“Around 6,500 people across the UK are waiting for an organ transplant.”

“Three people a day die in need of a transplant due to a shortage of people being willing to donate organs”

Donating organs is one way someone can make a lasting positive impact on another person’s life.

Ways to donate

Organ donation is done in three main ways; brain stem death, circulatory death and living donation. Organ donation following brain stem death is when a donor has lost consciousness or their ability to breathe. Circulatory death is when a donor loses the function of their heart or lungs, often after a cardiac arrest from which they could not be resuscitated. Finally, a living donation is when a living donor donates a whole or part of an organ/tissue.

The importance of consent

Organ donation can be an emotional topic. In many cases, it is the family of the deceased that have to make the final decision to donate, often at a very emotional time. In light of this, the NHS encourages people that want to become donors to either register as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register or tell a close family member of friend that they wish to donate their organs. It must be stressed, the NHS will not use a donor’s organs without the full consent of the donor (if alive) or their family.

What can be donated?

A huge range of organs can be donated, potentially changing countless lives for the better:

  • Kidney – Donors can donate their kidney when living or following death. Kidney donations mean someone stops needing daily dialysis, giving them a chance to lead normal life.
  • Heart – Donating a heart is only done following death. However, it can save a heart disease sufferer’s life.
  • Liver – Livers can be donated either when living (only part of the liver can be donated) or following death. Livers are valuable, as their work in the body cannot be replaced by a machine. Donating a liver can help someone with liver failure.
  • Lung – Lungs are generally donated following death and can help people living with cystic fibrosis, lung disease (COPD) and lung scarring.
  • Pancreas – Donated after death, pancreas donations can transform the lives of people living with treatment-resistant type 1 diabetes and/or kidney disease.
  • Small bowel – Donating the small bowel is typically done after death. It can help people who have short bowel syndrome (their small bowel is missing/removed/damaged) or Crohns disease.
  • Cornea – Donating a cornea could save someone’s sight, one of the most necessary senses in our modern age.

In some cases, if individuals can’t or don’t want to donate organs they can donate tissues and bone:

  • Heart valves – Donated after death, heart valves can save the lives of children born with heart defects and adults with heart valve damage.
  • Skin – Donating skin can help treat victims of serious burns.
  • Bone – Donated bones can be used when providing joint replacements.
  • Tendons – Donated tendons can rebuild damaged joints.

Making a decision

Despite the desperate need for organs in the UK, deciding to donate your organs isn’t a decision to take lightly. If you’re considering becoming a donor, do your research and take into account any personal wishes/religious beliefs you may hold. Even if you don’t go through with it, it’s not for everyone, at least have the conversation with family and friends. Raising awareness about the importance of organ donation is key to getting more people to help. Who knows, you could help save someone’s life even if you’re not around.

So all in all, from watching a film as procrastination during the Easter holidays, I learnt a lot about organ donation. This counts as revision right?

IMPORTANT NOTE:

All of the information about organ donation in this blog post was obtained directly from the NHS Organ Donation website. This blog post should NOT be used to make any decision, it was simply written to raise awareness. If you wish to obtain further information about organ donation visit https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/.

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