Triple transplant teenager campaigns for organ donation
A 16-YEAR-OLD Co Antrim girl who has undergone three transplants after suffering life-threatening liver failure as a child is urging people to consider organ donation.
Lucia Quinney Mee from Ballycastle was speaking at the launch of a major campaign aimed at encouraging families to "have a conversation" around the issue - after research revealed that while the majority of the Northern Ireland population support donation, less than half consent to it.
The Cross and Passion pupil was just eight-years-old when she developed acute liver failure and was rushed to a specialist children's hospital in Birmingham for a transplant.
She received an adult's liver in a gruelling eight-hour operation but developed complications a year later and had to receive a second transplant.
Just three months ago Lucia underwent her third surgery - but is already back to swimming training for next year's Transplant Games in Liverpool.
The teenager said she wants to raise as much awareness as possible ahead of this Friday's official campaign day.
"I wanted to be here today to remind people there is a positive outcome to organ donation. Most people associate donation with sadness as it is connected to the death of someone they love," Lucia said.
"If it wasn't for donor families I wouldn't be here today, they bring so much happiness. There's a lot of mixed emotions around donation but when I go to the transplant games donor families come up to me and want to hear my story."
Last year 17 people died in the north waiting on a transplant. While donation rates have improved, the issue around a family's consent after a loved one's death is still a problem.
This compares to a family refusal rate of only two per cent in Belgium, the leading organ donation rate country in the world.
Shane Finnegan, a transplant recipient and high-profile campaigner who helped organised yesterday's Stormont event, said: "The campaign seeks to encourage more people to discuss their wishes with those closest to them, so that families and friends find it easier to carry them out if the time ever comes.
"While almost 80 per cent of people agree it is important to discuss their donation wishes with their family and/or friends, a common reason for families refusing to give consent is that the potential donor's family was not aware of their loved one's wishes."
Social media will play a big role in this year's drive, with people being encouraged to share they've had the conversation and calling on others to do the same by posting their pictures and using the hashtag #Dec11Tellyourlovedones.