Giving the gift of life

Martina Conlon, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation, pictured recently at South West Acute Hospital

Martina Conlon, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation, pictured recently at South West Acute Hospital

ONE organ donor can save as many as seven lives and local people are being encouraged to say yes to donation.

In recent months the issue of organ donation has come to the fore, with a number of local families taking the decision to donate their loved one’s organs – often in very tragic circumstances.


Martina Conlon is a specialist nurse in organ donation at the South West Acute Hospital and one of 12 specialist nurses throughout Northern Ireland. Dealing directly with these families Martina admits she has been simply overwhelmed by their kindness at a time of unimaginable sorrow.

“The families that I have worked with in the South West Acute Hospital have been absolutely amazing. There are no words to describe how brilliant they have been. I have found it a privilege to work with these families, they have amazing strength of character and I never cease to be blown away by their generosity and thoughtfulness for other people at a time of such great sadness and great distress for themselves. They can save someone’s life by saying yes to donation and it does bring them comfort knowing they have made such an overwhelming decision to agree to organ donation.”

As part of Martina’s role she ensures all families who can possibly be offered the option to consider organ donation as part of end of life care for their loved one are given that opportunity. She also makes sure the patient’s wishes are fulfilled if they are on the organ donor register.

“The vast majority of our donors would have been declared brain stem dead and the medical staff would have referred those potential donors to ourselves and after completing an assessment of their suitability for donation we would speak to the family and offer the family the option to consider organ donation.

“It is a very delicate, very sensitive time for these families, you don’t want to compound their grief any more, you don’t want to add any further distress to them, but really it is about offering them the choice and really it is to ensure they have all the information on the organ donation process to enable them to make an informed choice about donation.”

Fermanagh and the North as a  whole is one of the best regions in the UK for organ donation, with a recent survey indicating that 84% of people support the idea of organ donation. However the latest statistics indicate that 38% of families refuse to give consent for donation of their loved one’s organs when faced with this choice.

Another aspect of Martina’s role is to raise awareness of the need for organ donors. She explained that there is always a need for more.


“By donating your organs after you die you could save the lives of up to seven people and there is a shortage of organs for transplant in Northern Ireland, there’s around 200 people waiting for transplant and every year 15 people will die on that transplant list, because they don’t get the organ they need.”

If you wish to sign up to the organ donor register visit . You can also register through your GP, when you’re signing up for or renewing your driving licence, taxing your car or through organ donation awareness events.

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