Ritchie’s story of donating a kidney to his aunt is just one of three emotional testimonies captured in a new campaign to encourage more organ donors from minority ethnic communities following a drastic drop in donations during the COVID pandemic.
Recent figures show that there has been a 25% reduction in deceased organ donors and a 61% reduction in living donors from minority ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, data from the NHS Blood and Transplant service shows that transplant patients from an ethnic background have longer wait times than white transplant patients, while donors from members of the same ethnic background are more likely to be a match.
The ORGANise initiative, uses powerful testimony from families in three short films, produced by Total Insight Theatre and funded by NHS Blood and Transplant Community Investment Scheme. The films aim to show the positive results of organ donation and encourages viewers to join the donor register.
Among the emotional accounts is Ritchie’s from Southampton. Ritchie explains how he became a living donor and donated one of his kidneys to his aunt, who now has a new lease of life.
“… there were just 146 organ donors from a Black, Asian, Mixed Race and minority ethnic background in 2020/21”
In the film, Richie tells of how his aunt who was diagnosed with a hereditary disease, polycystic kidneys struggles with daily difficulties. He remembers going to visit her and every time it got to 6 or 7 o’clock she would have to go to her bedroom to self-dialyse for a while. “You could actually see how draining it was for her. You could see the mental toll It was taking, not just the mental, but the physical, you could literally see it taking its toll on her.”
Although his aunt was on the register, due to the fact that there are not enough Black donors, and because you are more likely to be matched if the donor is from the same ethnic background, it is an agonisingly slow process to move through the list.
Richie decided to donate his kidney to his aunt. He said in the film: “It’s never something you think you would do until you see the impact that it can have on people’s lives. What do I lose? I don’t lose anything at all.”
Highlighting the urgency of the problem, the 2020/21 annual report from NHS Blood and Transplant service, delved into organ donation and transplantation in Black, Asian, Mixed Race and minority ethnic communities. The report showed that there were just 146 organ donors from a Black, Asian, Mixed Race and minority ethnic background in 2020/21 (84 deceased, and 62 living).This is a 25% reduction in deceased donor and a 61% reduction in living donors compared to 2019/20 figures.
While waiting times for transplants for all ethnicities had improved, Black patients are still waiting almost a year longer for a kidney transplant compared to white patients.
“During 2020/21 – 39.5% of Black, Asian, mixed heritage or minority ethnic families agreed to support donation going ahead, compared to 69% of white families”
It also noted that over the course of the year, 39.5% of Black, Asian, mixed heritage or minority ethnic families agreed to support donation going ahead, compared to 69% of white families.
Raising awareness of the issue is vital to encourage more people to register as an organ donor. CEO Adam Tulloch of Total Insight Theatre, who produced the short films said: “ORGANise has struck a personal chord with many of us at Total Insight Theatre, as we are from these minority ethnic communities.
“The stories really do hit home how organ donation can really save someone’s life and it only takes a minute to confirm that all important decision and register.”
The impact on the lives of people who are waiting for a donation cannot be underestimated as in the case of Ritchie’s aunt who is now once again fully present in her families’ lives. As Ritchie said: “She’s with us. She’s there in the moment. She’s happier. I do beat myself up at times as to why I didn’t do it earlier, but I am grateful of the little I could so to help improve her life.”
Watch Ritchie’s ORGANise initiative film below: