Co Down man urges public to save lives by talking about organ donation
A CO Down man has appealed to people - particularly those aged over 50 - to sign the organ donor register after his late wife's organs gave others the "gift of life".
Billy Kelly from Carryduff lost his wife Gertie in 2011 when she was 73, but her liver and kidneys were donated to give others a "chance to live".
He has joined forces with the Public Health Agency (PHA) to highlight the importance of people of all ages signing up for organ donation and discussing their wishes with their loved ones.
Around 150 people are currently on the transplant waiting list in Northern Ireland, with 14 people dying while waiting for an organ last year.
"In 2011 Gertie and I discussed the need to sign up for organ donation although we didn't actually sign the organ donation register at that time," said Mr Kelly.
"Tragically Gertie died one week later but I knew from that conversation that Gertie wanted to be a donor.
"The recipients of Gertie's donated liver and kidneys would have had no idea that she was 73, indeed the recipients would have been only too grateful to have been given the gift of life and a chance to live."
Dr Catherine Coyle from the PHA said "people are dying every day in Northern Ireland because some families are not talking about donation".
"In order to raise the number of people getting life-saving transplants it is imperative that you tell your family your wishes," she said.
"Many over 50s don't join the register or tell their families they want to donate because they don't think their organs could help other people, but this is not factually correct.
"People in their 50s and older can and do donate their organs.
"If more people in the older age groups tell their families they want to be donors, even more lives could be saved.
"Recent figures show that while across the UK 21 per cent of those joining the Organ Donor Register were over 50 at the time of registration, in Northern Ireland the figure is 16 per cent.
"With an ageing population, we hope that more older people will sign the register, talk to their loved ones and ultimately help save lives."
See www.organdonationni.info for further information.