Doctor who had heart transplant urges people to tell family of donor decision

A Bedford doctor who was the recipient of a heart transplant is encouraging people to become organ donors during National Transplant week.

Dr Snehasish Guha of Lansdowne Road was a practicing anaesthetist and was involved in an organ retrieval of a young patient who died in a road accident - prompting him to sign up to the organ donor register.

Transplant patient Dr Snehasish Guha, from Bedford.

Transplant patient Dr Snehasish Guha, from Bedford.

Dr Guha said: “What I saw was something quite remarkable - this young man’s organs went to seven different people and that was the day I decided this was something that I must sign up for.”

However, soon afterwards Dr Guha was diagnosed with a viral infection which resulted in him living with heart failure which required a heart transplant to save his life.

He said: “I deteriorated after 2010. I signed up to the transplant programme because I wanted to get back to a normal life and they put me on a transplant list. I received a new heart in 2012 and was back at work within three months and felt very good, and very optimistic.

“When I had the operation it didn’t feel like I had what I had, it felt like I’d had a gall bladder operation - my colleagues couldn’t believe I went back to work within three months. I had my operation on the Diamond Jubilee weekend - there’s a lot said about weekend cover but I was looked after very well.”

In Bedfordshire, 27 residents have died due to the shortage of organs in the last five years and there are currently 97 people in the county waiting for a transplant.

This is the reason why NHS Blood and Transplant is highlighting the figures to encourage people to make their decision to be an organ donor during National Transplant Week 2014 which runs until Sunday, July 13.

Dr Guha said: “The thing is I was on the list for two years and every time someone calls you think it’s for the op - but when it happened you have about 10-12 hours to prepare. I was actually on my way to hospital for a regular appointment and they said to me there may be a chance you have the op today. We went at 7.30am, by 12.30pm they said it was going to happen, by 2.30pm I was in the theatre, by 8pm I was out of theatre, and by 11pm I was able to see my wife and friends which was pretty good. The nurses were absolutely fantastic, they said do you need anything and I asked for a coke - it was the nicest coke I’d ever tasted!

“Two years post-transplant I’ve almost forgotten I’d had the op. I am really grateful for being given the gift of the operation - it’s like winning the lottery. There are a lot of patients out there who are waiting for an operation, and there are a lot of patients out who don’t even make it to the operation. I have been given a new lease of life.”

The aim of this year’s campaign is to increase awareness that the decision to donate a loved one’s organs falls to the family if you die in circumstances where you can donate. If you’ve already talked about it, your family won’t have the burden of having to guess what you would have wanted at an incredibly difficult time and they are more likely to support your decision to donate.

Dr Guha and others who have raised nearly £5,000 in fundraising for the cause added: “Donating an organ is an astonishing thing - we gift a lot to loved ones but how many times can you give the gift of life to a stranger?

“It is a difficult thing to broach - for someone who has lost a brother, sister, father, mother - it can go completely wrong if you don’t say the right things - but nowadays you have a transplant co-ordinator in every hospital who is specially trained to talk to the families and talk through the process with families. My message to anyone thinking about signing up would be if you could see how many lives can be helped by one person’s organs - well, it’s astonishing.

“Unfortunate things do happen in this world and we need to increase the severe shortgage of organs we need for patients on the list - it’s like no treatment we have and we need to be able to talk about it openly.”

Even if you’re one of the 183,927 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register in Bedfordshire, everyone is encouraged to tell those closest to you that you want to donate your organs.

For further information about National Transplant Week and to register your organ donation decision go to Follow NHS Blood and Transplant on twitter @NHSOrganDonor and support us on Facebook and remember to #spellitout.