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Brave Teddy highlights need for ‘Gift of Life’

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Adam Hughes: Just after his transplant.

Adam Hughes: Just after his transplant.

FOR Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff, the birth of twin boys Teddy and Noah on April 22 2014 was one of both heartbreak and hope. Teddy was born with a rare yet fatal condition – anencephaly – but his parents were determined his short life would not be in vain. Once the diagnosis was confirmed during pregnancy, the parents discussed and wanted, if possible, for his organs to be donated. The family managed to spend precious time with him before he passed away and Teddy became the youngest organ donor in the UK. In the last ten years, 39 babies younger than two years old have become organ donors helping to save the lives of strangers.

As his twin Noah celebrated his first birthday the family used the anniversary to mark the occasion when his brother Teddy became a hero. His kidneys were transplanted to help save the life of another person.

Jess, 28, said: “Knowing that part of your loved one is living on in someone else is comforting. If it stops any other person going through the same thing then this can only be good. Teddy´s life had a very important role to play. Unless you have been through the same thing or know someone affected it´s hard to understand how important organ donation is.”

Mike, 30, added: “We want Teddy´s story to inspire others and help break any taboos people might still hold regarding organ donation. Organ donation wasn´t prominent in my life growing up and while I was up for it I never got round to doing anything about it. I´m sure there are many more men like me who think the same! I want to spread the word as much as possible about how organ donation saves lives, and that we should all speak to each other about our wishes. Without that discussion it is a very difficult conversation to have when it comes out of the blue. Put simply, you should ask yourself the question “Would you take an organ if you needed it?” Everyone would do so if the truth were told so we hope what Teddy did can educate people and prompt them to get talking.”

April 22 2015, the one year anniversary of Teddy’s heroism, was also a personal milestone for myself, it marked six months to the day since I received my kidney transplant and got to experience first hand the ‘gift of life’. In April 2013 I was admitted to hospital with symptoms of cramps, breathlessness, headaches, nosebleeds and chest pains. A simple blood pressure test at the doctor’s surgery had indicated a blood pressure reading of 230/170, high by anyone’s standards, but stratospheric for a 25 year-old.

This was the start of a three week stay in hospital. I had suffered Chronic Renal Failure, my blood readings were so dangerously unbalanced that I was told I may not have survived a fortnight longer. My blood pressure had been so high for so long that my heart’s muscular walls had doubled in size, I was seriously ill. Although I knew I hadn’t been feeling right for a few months, my decline from being a fit and healthy individual to being registered on the transplant waiting list was swift.

For nearly two years I was in a daily routine of medications, injections and ten hours of dialysis which took place overnight. I was unable to eat almost all of the food I liked and travel, which had been one of my main interests, was made almost impossible through the sheer amount of equipment and supplies I would have to take with me in order to survive.

For me the only option was a transplant and with an average waiting time for a kidney of between three and five years I was incredibly fortunate to have received a match in just under two years. I am one of the lucky ones and the need for donors has never been more urgent. More than 8,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant. Despite the huge advances in medicine and the great success of transplant operations, people are still dying while waiting.

There is a critical shortage of organs and the gap between the number of people waiting for a transplant and the number of organs donated is increasing. One donor can save the life of several people, restore the sight of two others and improve the quality of life of many more. The more people who pledge to donate their organs and tissue after their death, the more people stand to benefit.

In a recent survey 90% of people said they supported organ donation and almost everyone would accept a transplant if they or their loved one needed one. Yet only a third of people in the UK have registered to be an organ donor. Last year, over 40% of families refused to allow organ donation to go ahead, sometimes even when their loved one was a registered donor.

In September 2013 the Welsh Assembly passed what it described as it’s ‘most significant’ legislation to date. From December 1, Wales will be the first UK country to introduce a soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation. The new law aims to make it easier for people in Wales to become organ donors. From this date, if you have not registered a decision to opt-in or opt-out of organ donation, you will be treated as having no objection to being an organ donor. This is called deemed consent. Thus meaning that if you did not want to donate your organs then you would have to ‘opt-out’.

In 2012/13, 36 people died in Wales whilst waiting for an organ transplant as a donor could not be found. In 2011/12 30,000 people died in Wales. Around 250 of these died in a way that would have allowed them to become a potential organ donor. But only 67 people became organ donors. Through the ‘opt out’ legislation it is hoped that waiting times for people requiring organ transplants and the number of preventable deaths can be reduced significantly.

It is rare for families to be in the awful situation where their loved one could be a potential donor. In 43% of cases where organ donation is possible, families say no to donation because they don’t know whether their loved one wanted to be a donor. When the new system is in place, families will know their loved one could have opted out if they didn’t want to be a donor. Therefore by proceeding with organ donation, they can be reassured that they are carrying out the decision of their loved one.

The law will mean if you support organ donation but simply haven’t got around to signing the Organ Donor Register, you won’t need to. As someone who has experienced first hand the positive impact organ donation can have upon a person’s life, the law change is an extremely positive move. Despite this I would still encourage people to sign up to be an organ donor. My message is a simple one: if you would accept an organ, surely you should be prepared to be a donor. Sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your relatives that you want to donate. You can do this online by following the links on http://www.organdonation. nhs.uk or by calling 0300 123 23 23.

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Tesco makes it even easier for shoppers in South Wales to help local food banks

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TESCO is making it easier than ever for shoppers to give a helping hand to food banks and charities feeding people in their local community, with ready-prepared donation bags at local stores in South Wales this summer.

The Tesco Food Collection is taking place in every large Tesco store across the UK from Thursday, June 30 until Saturday, July 2, and shoppers are being urged to donate long-life food to support local food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network and thousands of frontline charities supplied by FareShare. Tesco will top up all food donations made during the collection with an extra 20% cash donation to support the two charities.

The pre-filled donation bags, available during the collection, will contain items that are most-needed by the local Trussell Trust foodbank or frontline charities supplied by FareShare.

Shoppers will be able to scan the contents at the till as part of their usual shop before dropping the bag into the food collection donation trolley.

It is one of a number of new ways that customers can give their support during this summer’s food collection. Shoppers can also for the first time round up their bill at the checkout to make a small donation to both the charities.

From this week it is also easier for customers who shop in Express stores to support the charities, with new permanent donation points being placed in every Tesco Express store in the UK for the first time, meaning shoppers will now be able to donate at Express stores year-round.

Shoppers can also donate their Tesco Clubcard points online to either of the charities.

Tesco Head of Community Claire de Silva said, “This collection marks ten years of us working with the Trussell Trust and FareShare. During that decade our customers have been amazingly generous, donating more than 100 million meals during our food collections and at permanent collection points in stores. This summer we wanted to make it even easier for customers to donate as we know that every can donated really does help.”

Donations are more important than ever as the charities have reported increasing need for food.

Sarah Germain, CEO at FareShare Cymru, said: “Our charities are telling us that the need for food has vastly increased as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, and over the last year we’ve continued to deliver four meals every second to people facing food insecurity across the UK.

“That’s why we would be immensely grateful to anyone who is able to donate a bag of pasta or tin of vegetables over the Tesco Food Collection weekend – your generous donations will help us continue providing vital support to families struggling to cope this summer.”

Emma Shepherd, Project Manager at the Trussell Trust Cardiff Foodbank, and Becky Morgan, Manager at the Trussell Trust Vale Foodbank, added: “Every year, we are amazed by the generosity of Tesco customers who donate to the Food Collection. We know that many families on the very lowest incomes have been forced to the doors of food banks to get by, as the nation faces a rapid rise in the cost of living and continues to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. So, once again, we are calling on shoppers to give generously and make a difference to people who need our support over the coming weeks and months.”

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Hywel Dda Health Charities’ annual Pet Competition is back

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HYWEL DDA HEALTH CHARITIES, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, has launched its 2022 Pet Competition.

The competition gives members of the public the opportunity to win prizes while also helping the charity to raise funds which make a positive difference to the lives of NHS patients, service users and staff in the Hywel Dda area.

Owners of fabulous felines, perfect pooches, gorgeous guinea pigs or beautiful budgies are invited to enter the annual competition.

Pet-owners can enter as many times as they like in the categories of Cutest Dog, Cutest Cat and Cutest Other Pet. Each photo entry costs £3.

It’s easy to take part, all participants need to do is send a photo of their pet to fundraising.hyweldda@wales.nhs.uk and follow the instructions in this link: https://hyweldda.enthuse.com/cf/pet-competition.

The competition is open to everyone in the Health Board area. Entries close on 30th June 2022. The final three in each category will be chosen by the Hywel Dda Health Charities team. The winners are then chosen by an online voting poll and will be announced in July.

There are 1st place prizes in each category donated by Wynnstay, Burns Pet Food and Vincent Davies Department Stores.

Diane Henry, fundraising support officer, said: “Each time people enter our Pet Competition with pictures of their fabulous pets, they are helping us to provide services and activities above and beyond what the NHS can provide.. Thank you for your continued support.”

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