Organ Donation Week 2019: "Without the transplant I would be dead" explains Spalding teaching assistant Sam
As this week marks Organ Donation Week one man says he would not be here if it was not for the kindness of another person.
Sam Newton (38), from Spalding, has just returned from the World Transplant Games, where he won two gold medals in archery, and said he could not even begin to find the words to say thank you for the gift that saved his life.
He underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant five and a half years ago and will never forget the date - February 9, 2014.
He said: "All I know about my donor is that he was male and was 27-years-old. I wanted to write a letter to the family and I have written a couple of drafts but there is no way I can find the words to say thank you. There is no doubt that without the transplant I would be dead. They saved my life. I just do not know how you would say something that is enough."
The national NHS campaign, asking people to talk to their families about organ donation, is being supported by NHS South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Nationally, three people die every day in need of an organ and there are currently around 80 people in Lincolnshire on the transplant waiting list.
The NHS says that families will always be approached about donation if a loved one can donate their organs, and knowing what that person wanted can help families support their decision at a difficult time. Next spring (2020) organ donation in England is changing, whereby all adults will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor unless they 'opt out' or are in one of the excluded groups.
Currently, just one third of adults in England have told their partner or their family that they want to donate.
Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of just three and a half. His condition was monitored as a child but he said it was not until he went to university in Derby that "for some reason my medical notes were not transferred and I did not get my regular check-ups.
"The issues were already starting when I was not quite a teenager. Later, I used to volunteer at the local youth club and after playing football I got a bad pain in my back. I wasn't like a muscular pain. It was like it was my kidneys."
There is no way I can find the words to say thank you. There is no doubt that without the transplant I would be dead.
Then at the age of 21, he was diagnosed with kidney disease.
"They put me on all this medication and I ended up with clinical depression. I went months without taking my medication. I always took my insulin. As any diabetic will tell you, if your blood sugar is out you feel bad - but I did not see the effects of taking the tablets.
"Part of that was denial and part was punishing myself."
At 31 he was told his kidneys had deteriorated to such a point that he would need a transplant.
He began dialysis at home but in the summer of 2013, during an extremely hot period, he went into toxic shock through dehydration and suddenly lost co-ordination of his limbs.
He was rushed to Pilgrim Hospital in Boston and then transferred to hospital in Leicester for emergency dialysis, where he remained for a month.
On February 9, 2014, Sam got the call that there was a donor. He had already been called in once before, only to be told it was a 'no-go' once he arrived. He said: "I had the mindset that just because you get the call does not mean it is necessarily going to happen. I told myself it is only going to happen once it has happened."
After a ten-hour operation, and 50 staples in his chest, Sam had a new kidney and pancreas from the same donor.
He said: "I celebrate that date more than I celebrate my birthday. It means more to me than my actual birthday. I do not want to call it my rebirth day; it is also a day that somebody is mourning a death."
Sam, who today works as a teaching assistant at Spalding Academy, is a British champion, European champion and now world champion following his success in the Transplant Games. In addition to those who have supported him in his journey, he wanted to add his thanks to his personal coach Em Must.
- To find out more about becoming an organ donor or to register, go to: www.organdonation.nhs.uk
- Anybody wishing to contact Sam to speak about his transplant and experiences please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass on your message.