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National Transplant Week – July 3-9, 2023

National Transplant Week is celebrated annually in the United Kingdom during the first full week of July to encourage people to register as organ donors. This year it is observed from July 3 to 9. Did you know that organ transplant operations were being performed as far back as the second century B.C.? Organ donation is the removal of organs or tissues from a living or dead person and placing them in another person. Organ transplant requires legal consent from the donor while they are alive, or consent from the next of kin when the donor is deceased. Kidneys, the heart, the liver, skin, the eyes, and the lungs are among the organs and tissues that can be donated. National Transplant Week is organized by the U.K. National Health Service (N.H.S.).

History of National Transplant Week

The first credible account of organ transplantation dates back to the second century B.C., when Sushruta, an Indian surgeon used autografted skin transplantation in nose reconstruction. However, we do not know whether or not the surgery was successful. In the 16th century, the Italian surgeon Gasparo Tagliacozzi, also known as the “Father of Plastic Surgery,” was an Italian surgeon who successfully reconstructed noses and ears using skin tissues from patients’ arms in the 16th century. He was the first to propose transplant rejection centuries before scientists were aware of the concept.

In 1883, Swiss surgeon Theodor Kocher successfully performed a thyroid transplant. As a result of this, he discovered the function of the thyroid and was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1909. Thyroid transplantation became the generally accepted model for all organ transplants, including adrenal and parathyroid glands, pancreas, kidney, ovary, and testicles. Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912 for his pioneering work in artery and vein transplantation. He also identified the problem of rejection, which led to the abandonment of organ transplantation following WWI.

In the 1930s, the Ukrainian surgeon Yurii Voronoy performed the first human kidney transplant using an organ from a deceased donor. However, the donor died shortly after due to Ischemia. Years later, Joseph Murray and J. Hartwell Harrison successfully performed kidney transplantation between identical twins, as immunosuppression was not required for genetically identical individuals. In the late 1940s, Peter Medawar advanced the understanding of rejection and introduced immunosuppressive drugs, which led to the development of anti-rejection medications between the 1950s and 1970s. In 1967, the South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant between a deceased person and patient Louis Washkansky.

The patient died 18 days later due to pneumonia. Since the late 20th century, the success rate of organ transplantation has improved, and there has been an increased demand for more organs, particularly from living donors. Some of the breakthroughs in the 21st century include the transplantation of both arms and shoulders, neonatal organ transplant, penis transplant, and the heart transplant from a pig to a human patient.

National Transplant Week timeline

16th century
The First Successful Skin Autografts

Gasparo Tagliacozzi reconstructs noses and ears using skin tissues from patients’ arms

1883
The Thyroid Gland Transplantation

Theodor Kocher performs the first thyroid transplantation, discovering the function of the thyroid gland.

1940s
The Introduction Of Immunosuppressive Drugs

Peter Medawar advances the understanding of rejection and introduces immunosuppressive drugs.

1967
The First Human-to-Human Heart Transplant

Christiaan Barnard successfully transplants a heart between a deceased person and a sick patient.

National Transplant Week FAQs

What are the seven organs that can be donated?

The organs and tissues that one can donate include the heart, liver, kidney, lung, pancreas, middle ear, and corneas.

What are the disadvantages of organ donation?

The risks of organ donation are usually surgery-related. That includes pain, infection, hernia, bleeding, blood clots, and wound complications. In rare cases, it may lead to death. Also, the donor may experience mental health issues and resentment if the donated organ fails in the recipient.

Which organ is commonly donated

The most commonly donated organ is the kidney, followed by the liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, and intestines.

How to Observe National Transplant Week

  1. Join the N.H.S. Organ Donor Register

    If you want to save or improve lives while you are alive or after you die, you can decide to donate your organs today. This decision has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of people on the transplant waiting list, as well as the lives of their families and relatives. To sign up for the N.H.S. Organ Donor Register, go to transplantweek.co.uk or your local public clinic or hospital.

  2. Raise awareness of organ donation

    If you work in a medical practice or an interested organization, you can use National Transplant Week to educate people about organ donation and its importance to public health and well-being, as well as to encourage them to sign up for the Organ Donor Register. You can plan a day-long or week-long activity at your local community center or online through various social media platforms. You can also go door to door, asking people to sign up for the Organ Donor Register.

  3. Encourage other people to donate their organs

    Aside from legally consenting to donate your organs, you can also encourage those around you — family, friends, relatives, and neighbors — to donate their organs while they are still alive or after they die. All they have to do is sign up with the N.H.S. Organ Donor Register.

5 Facts About Organ Donation

  1. Living people can donate

    You can donate specific tissues and organs and still live a long, healthy life.

  2. The elderly and sick can also donate

    Some organs or tissues remain viable for transplantation, regardless of your health condition.

  3. Donors save more than one life

    By donating organs and tissues, you can potentially save the lives of eight people.

  4. Major religions support it

    The world’s major religions support or permit organ, eye, and tissue donation.

  5. Social or financial status is not considered

    Transplant candidates are prioritized by blood type, tissue or organ needed, medical urgency, and the cumulative time they’ve been on the waiting list.

Why National Transplant Week is Important

  1. Organ donation saves lives

    According to statistics, by donating an organ, you can potentially save the lives of eight people. Thousands of people are on the waiting list for life-saving transplants, and the number is growing by the day. By donating your organs while you're alive or after you’ve passed away, and encouraging others to do the same, you can help reduce that number and save the lives of transplant candidates.

  2. Organ donation improves the quality of life

    By donating an eye or tissues, you can potentially improve the lives of up to 50 people. This holiday encourages us to take a leap at helping others who require vital organs and increase the quality of their lives. Take the step today to join the N.H.S. Organ Donor Register.

  3. Organ donation is a gift of life

    Donating organs is one of the best gifts you can possibly give to a person. By offering your organs up for transplant after you pass on, you save lives and improve them and that of their family and relatives.

National Transplant Week dates

YearDateDay
2022July 4Monday
2023July 3Monday
2024July 1Monday
2025July 7Monday
2026July 6Monday

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