A LIFE-SAVING campaign launched in memory of a South Tyneside baby, has encouraged more than 2,000 people in the borough to become organ donors.
New figures from NHS Blood and Transplant reveal there are now 40,357 people living in the borough who are registered organ donors – 2,070 since the family of Miley Turbitt launched the In Miley’s Memory campaign, supported by the Gazette, last February.
The 14-week-old, who suffered from a severe form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, died in November 2012 while waiting for a donor organ who was not found in time.
Her mother, Sharon Eckert, who led the campaign which saw people take part in awareness-raising walks, host stands at a range of events and bids to sign up town centre revellers, said: “What the campaign has achieved is amazing. I never thought when we started, it would be so successful.
“To have encouraged so many people to take the time to sign the register is unbelievable.
“I just want to say a huge ‘thank-you’ to everyone who followed and believed in the campaign. And an even bigger ‘thank-you’ to everyone who signed the register.
“The support we have received from people during the campaign has really meant a lot to me and my family.”
As well as support from businesses and emergency services in the borough, Sharon also received the support of other families affected in some way by the organ donation issue.
Gary Robertson’s organs helped to save the lives of four people and transform the lives of 10 others after his death, in 2012, aged 39.
His wife Emma, agreed to fulfil her husband’s wishes by allowing his organs to be donated.
Mrs Robertson, from Hebburn, said: “I never thought for a second those figures could be reached within a year. It’s just amazing. Just think of how many people’s lives could be saved in the future.
“I didn’t realise just how many lives could be saved by one person.
“To read how all the recipients of his organs are doing well, is just really special.”
Gillian Lyon, from South Shields, also helped to save the life of a woman in Leeds following her death, aged 42.
Her family came forward to back the campaign in a bid to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
Her mother, Sandra Burn, said: “I just can’t believe the figures. I was at an awards ceremony, last year, for organ donation and I was talking to a young man who at 15 years old had a heart transplant – he is now 25. It is just amazing. Organ donation really does make a difference to people’s lives.”
Joanne Carr’s family also spoke out to encourage people to sign the register after the 41-year-old died, last year, after a liver failed to be found.
Her husband of nine years, Davy, from Jarrow, said: “Joanne had always been on the organ donor register, something she reminded me of even when she was in hospital. But because doctors feared her organs could be infected, due to her illness, she wasn’t able to donate hers.
“Joanne died because a liver couldn’t be found in time. If a liver had been available, she would still be here now watching her sons grow up.
“But if her story highlights the importance of people signing up to the register then, in her own way, she is helping to save lives.”
All four families are hoping the latest figures will encourage even more people to take the time to sign up to become organ donors.
To sign up to the organ donation register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Call the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or text SAVE to 62323