A NURSE who had a life-saving transplant after being given six months to live urged people to talk to their loved ones about organ donation.

Natalie Jones used to work on Great Western Hospital’s intensive care unit but almost died before ever starting her training.

She desperately needed a liver transplant and spent almost half of the estimated time she had left to live waiting for a call confirming that a donor had been found. Now, 17 years on, she’s urging others to have those difficult but necessary conversations about organ donation with their nearest and dearest.

New rules mean everyone is an assumed donor but people’s families can override that if they are not happy with that.

She said: “I received a transplant after being diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. When placed on the waiting list, I was given six months to live and spent almost three months waiting for the call. My life was on hold in hospital.

“Without the donor and their family unselfishly consenting to donate, I would not be here today. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my young donor. I celebrate my transplant anniversary every year and it will be 17 years of life that I have gained by the amazing gift I have received.

“Since the transplant I have travelled, gone to university and qualified as a nurse. The dedication and care I received is what inspired me to do my training and become a nurse, which I have been for 11 years now.

“The gift my donor has given me is beyond words and I shall forever be thankful.”.

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant and 1,000 of them – three a day – will die waiting because there are not enough organs available.

All adults in England are now assumed organ donors when they die unless they choose to opt out or are part of specific exemptions including under-18s, anyone who has lived in the country for less than 12 months, and anyone considered not to have the capacity to understand the law.

The new system includes an option when you register for you to choose for an NHS professional to speak to your family about how organ donation can go ahead in line with your faith or belief system.

You can still choose whether or not you want to be an organ donor when you die by registering your decision and telling your family, like hospital trust receptionist Nicole Marshall did.

She said: “My daughter and I have both registered to donate our tissue and organs and we have talked about it at length after I was tested last year to be a live kidney donor.

“After spending nearly 12 years offering beauty treatments to renal patients on dialysis here at the hospital through the Swindon Kidney Patients' Association, I have met and become friends with many patients waiting for kidney transplants. I chose to get tested after a close friend became very poorly.

“I first spoke to the team here at GWH to get advice. Everyone was fantastic and extremely supportive.

“Being a live donor is a decision that requires lots of thought and through that process and conversations with my family, I discovered that my mum was very uncomfortable with the idea.

“Now I have registered my decision and talked to my family, I know they won’t have to make any tough decisions on my behalf should that situation arise. I am a huge advocate for organ donation. It can completely change people’s lives.”

The hospital trust is supporting the #WordsSaveLives campaign, which asks people to start a conversation with their loved ones about their feelings and decisions on organ donation.

Specialist nurse for the organ donation service team Joanne Davies said “If you do decide to register as an organ donor, it is really important that you share your decision with those closest to you.

“Losing a family member is an extremely emotional event. By sharing your decision, your loved ones can be certain they are honouring your wishes if they should need to do so.

“We understand the sensitivity of this kind of situation and we offer support to bereaved families to help them make informed choices about organ donation.

“Here at Great Western Hospital, we are only involved in the organ retrieval process. This involves a specialist NHS team who ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation, the same care as any other operation to save a life.

“The operation site is carefully dressed after surgery and any end of life care wishes in relation to the washing and dressing of the body are respected.”

The hospital is still taking organ donations, with more stringent testing and safety precautions in place to protect patients.

Register to donate at organdonation.nhs.uk/register-your-decision/register-your-details/