The Organ Donor Register was given a boost as Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Sport Northern Ireland and the Public Health Agency (PHA) joined together at Casement Park to officially launch the Organ Donation through Sport campaign.
The event proved to be a success, with more people signing the register and the message of the importance of organ donation reaching hundreds of sports fans.
The catalyst for the awareness campaign was the untimely death of Nuala Vallely. Nuala (41) who was a steward at Casement Park, sadly and unexpectedly passed away in March of this year. Nuala had talked to her family about her wishes to be an Organ Donor and due to her generosity and foresight, lives were saved.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin commented: “I am delighted that so many sports fans signed on to the Organ Donation register this weekend and also took the opportunity to learn more about what being an Organ Donor means.
“Nuala Vallely was a huge positive influence to many people in her local community with a great love of Gaelic games, especially camogie. Her generosity of spirit was also seen in becoming an organ donor - a decision which has helped save lives. I pay tribute to Nuala and her family for being so brave on backing this campaign. I know it will save lives.
“Issues about death are difficult to discuss. But if we make clear our wishes on organ donation to our nearest and dearest it can help families greatly in the aftermath of bereavement.”
Brenda Kilpatrick, 28, Nuala’s younger sister, said their decision to honour Nuala’s wishes at a time of extreme grief was made easier because Nuala had taken the time to tell her family she had signed the Organ Donor Register.
She explained: “At an extremely difficult time we found ourselves in the lucky position that Nuala had made us all aware of her wishes to be an organ donor.
“We would urge all families to have the conversation about organ donation, whether it be one night over a family dinner, or even as simple as sending a text message.
“Taking 30 seconds just once can make all the difference not only to your family at a difficult time, but to so many families if you decide to be a donor – it’s one conversation that has the potential to change lives.”
During the launch, sporting fans were encouraged to visit an organ donation stand to find out more about organ donation, speak to Specialist Nurses of Organ Donation and most importantly, to sign the Organ Donor register.
Sport Northern Ireland’s Acting Chief Executive, Nick Harkness, said: “Nuala was a dedicated sports volunteer and during her lifetime she made a very positive impact within her local sporting community. Nuala’s decision to sign the Organ Donor Register and to let her family know her wishes has also made a positive impact as lives have undoubtedly been saved.
“By signing the register and speaking to family and friends about becoming an Organ Donor, everyone in the sporting community could make a difference.”
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA concluded: “It is great to see more and more people signing the register, however while the number of people signing the register is increased, more still needs to be done. In Northern Ireland, there are more than 300 people waiting for a lifesaving transplant and the stark reality is that some people will die waiting.
“Nuala’s decision to donate her organs has helped save lives, together we all have the opportunity to help others in need of a transplant by signing the Organ Donor Register. I would ask everyone in Northern Ireland, who has not already done so, to take the simple step today of registering as an organ donor today; it is one of the most generous things a human being can do to help others.”
You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by filling in a form online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk, texting save to 84118 or calling the NHS Donor line on 0300 123 23 23.