Royston woman who waited 19 months for a liver urges organ donors to talk to their families

PUBLISHED: 08:32 16 October 2017

Sarah got to meet her childhood hero Jason Donovan while in hospital. Picture: Sarah Barker

Sarah got to meet her childhood hero Jason Donovan while in hospital. Picture: Sarah Barker

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A Royston woman whose life was saved by the gift of a liver has urged people to talk to their families about becoming organ donors.

Sarah, 34, received a liver transplant after 19 months of waiting having feared she might not live to see her young children grow up. Picture: Sarah Barker Sarah, 34, received a liver transplant after 19 months of waiting having feared she might not live to see her young children grow up. Picture: Sarah Barker

Sarah Barker’s life was turned upside down in 2014 after a recurring infection put her life under threat.

The mother-of-two told the Crow she “lost count” of the number of times she was going to hospital, spending 10 to 12 days recovering as an in-patient each time the infection hit.

Sarah was born with a weak liver and the bile duct infection, known as cholangitis, hit her harder than most.

Eventually, her antibiotics started to become resistant to the treatment.

Sarah Barker in hospital. Picture: Sarah Barker Sarah Barker in hospital. Picture: Sarah Barker

“We were running out of options,” Sarah said.

“Without the donation I would have died.”

She received the lifesaving donation in April this year after a 19-month wait.

But Sarah was one of the lucky ones. The NHS Blood and Transplant Service has reported that in Hertfordshire alone, more than 100 people have died in the last 10 years simply waiting for an organ donation.

Sarah Barker, pictured with husband Richard, has urged people to talk to their families about being on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Picture: Sarah Barker Sarah Barker, pictured with husband Richard, has urged people to talk to their families about being on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Picture: Sarah Barker

But it’s not enough to be on the register, as Anthony Clarkson – assistant director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant – explains.

He said: “In Hertfordshire there are more than 437,000 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.”

Hundreds of organ donations are being missed every year because families, who are able to overturn the decision, weren’t certain of their loved one’s wishes.

“That’s why the NHS say it’s not just about being on the register,” said Sarah.

Sarah and husband Richard at an Alfie Boe concert. Picture: Sarah Barker Sarah and husband Richard at an Alfie Boe concert. Picture: Sarah Barker

“You need to go and talk to your family, and hopefully then they will understand.”

To people who are unsure, Sarah said: “My answer is always the same. If your family member needed a transplant, would you want them to take one? Then maybe you need to think about donating as well. It’s a two-way thing.”

Sarah’s family are all registered as donors and have discussed the matter together, in gratitude to the person who saved Sarah’s life.

“Words are not enough to say thank you,” added Sarah.

“This is someone who has literally given me my life back and returned me to the person I was. It makes you look at life differently. You’ve been given a new lease of life, and not everybody gets that chance.”

Find out more about visit organdonation.nhs.uk.

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