ALMOST 300 people in Greater Manchester are currently waiting for life-saving organ transplants.

One of those is mum-of-two Emma Standish, of Farnworth. The 28-year-old is in need of a kidney transplant, but she already knows first-hand the importance of organ donation.

When she was nine years old, Miss Standish was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. The condition meant her heart could not beat properly, due to the muscle becoming stretched.

In June 2000, she became ill and received a transplant in an 18-hour operation at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle that December.

By the time of her transplant, Emma's heart was failing and she had only around 72 hours to live. “The doctors never found out what happened,” she said.

“They think I had a virus and that attacked my heart.

“I think my parents didn’t tell me much about what was going on to protect me because I was still so young. The doctors told my parents that if I didn’t get a heart transplant I was going to die.

“I didn’t worry I wasn’t going to make it because I had no idea what was going to happen and I was so poorly I just wanted to give up fighting; I had had enough of being so poorly.”

Miss Standish had a tough time recovering, contracting several viruses, but eventually she came through.

Today she is in good health though suffering kidney failure, which is a side effect of the immunosupressants she takes to stop her body rejecting her donated heart.

She added: “My heart is fabulous; they found the perfect heart.

“People are shocked when they find out about my transplant as I’m just a normal girl.”

Next year, the law around organ donation is changing in England. From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

In the lead up to the change in the law, NHS Blood and Transplant is urging families across England to talk about their organ donation decision, with the campaign message ‘Pass it On’.

For Organ Donation Week, Miss Standish has been promoting the Pass it On campaign, along with her children Ava, eight, and Harrison, four.

She now works for the NHS in the nursing team of the Endoscopy Department at the Royal Bolton Hospital, and she is hoping to host a bake sale at work to raise money and awareness of the important need to donate and talk to your family.

Miss Standish said: “It is so important that people talk to their families about organ donation. Without the gift of a heart I wouldn’t be here today, so I am a living and breathing example of how lifesaving that decision can be.

“I have been supporting this Organ Donation Week by raising awareness, together with the help and admirable enthusiasm of my daughter Ava. Ava knows that it is the greatest gift in life and I’m so proud that she’s aware and willing to help others, should that day ever come for her.

“The law change to opt-out will give us all a greater chance at leading longer, healthier lives. All it takes is a quick conversation with your family about your decision – I’ve done this with my own children and I hope that by sharing my story more people will think about doing the same. It could be the most important conversation you ever have. People need to know that even after the law around organ donation changes in England and Scotland next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead.

“That’s why I support this change and I will continue to advocate for organ donation, with the support of my children and family, for as long as my second heart will allow.

“I don’t know who my donor was but I feel love for them, and sadness, and gratitude. I am forever grateful. If I had a picture of my donor they would be in a frame in my front room.”

Even after the law has changed, families will continue to be approached before organ donation goes ahead. Knowing what their relative wanted, helps families support their decision at a difficult time.

A recent survey of adults in England for NHS Blood and Transplant found that while 84 per cent agreed it was important to let those closest to you know your views on organ donation, only 40 per cent had shared their organ donation decision with their family or partner.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant added: “We need more people in Greater Manchester to talk about organ donation to increase the number of lifesaving transplants. Even after the law around organ donation changes next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead. So it remains so important to talk to your families about your views.

“Register your organ donation decision and tell your family the choice you have made. If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation with nurses or medical teams much easier if they already know what their relative wanted.”