AS Wales prepares to changes its organ donor system, AMY DOWNWARD meets a Swansea woman who received a kidney more than 30 years ago and has never looked back since...
ONE person dies on average every 11 days in Wales while waiting for a suitable organ transplant, it has emerged. The figures come in the week that the number of donors in Wales topped the million mark.
It is the equivalent to somebody registering as an organ donor every 10 minutes in Wales over the past 20 years. But it still isn't enough.
Swansea's Gloria Owens is one of Wales's longest living transplant recipients. She received her life changing replacement kidney over 31 years ago, after a long and agonising wait.
Now 67, she feels as if she has more energy that she had in her late 20s and early 30s when renal failure started taking grip.
Her illness was first diagnosed when she was just 19. Her feet started swelling; she had no energy and was constantly short of breath – all typical symptoms of nephritis, a blocking of the 'filters' in the kidneys. Her condition was managed locally in Swansea initially. But by 1978 she needed renal dialysis, which, at that time, was only available at Cardiff's Royal Infirmary. Gloria spent six months there, being trained on how to dialyse at home.
"But I never got used to dialysing," she says. "I had needle phobia and each session would be horrific for me. I never got used to it. But after about three years on the waiting list, I received the call saying a kidney match was available. Even though I needed the transplant desperately, I felt very emotional because it meant that someone else had died. But the difference in me was almost immediate. I focused on my health and fitness and, although I'd never been a sporty person, I competed in the British Transplant Games, winning 51 medals over a span of 25 years."
It is hoped her success story is one that will now be repeated on an ever-increasing scale. New organ donation legislation will come into force in Wales next year which will mean it will be presumed a person has agreed to donate their organs unless they have specifically opted out before they died. It will apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived there for more than 12 months. It is hoped the 'soft opt-out scheme' will increase the number of organs available by 25 per cent.
Gloria's husband John adds: "When illness comes into your family you all have to adjust. I won't ever forget my joy at seeing a pink healthy colour come back into Gloria's lips and nails after the operation. The new legislation is another vital step of hope for people who are very sick and in need of transplants and I think the vision and determination shown by the Welsh Government in getting this new presumed consent system passed is commendable."