Brave Heathfield dad cycles for organ donation week

Gareth Jones, 37, is cycling more than 80km to raise awareness of Organ Donor Week
Gareth Jones, 37, is cycling more than 80km to raise awareness of Organ Donor Week

A Heathfield dad is ‘cycling’ the 80.7 kilometres from his home to London to raise the profile of Organ Donation Week (September 5-11.)

Gareth Jones, 37, is tackling the marathon ride on an exercise bike at Go:Ver Gym in Broad Oak. But he’s not asking for money - as someone who has been told he will soon need a liver transplant he simply wants to make people aware of the need for organ donations.

Gareth said: “I’ve had a problem with my liver for some time but over the last few months, tests at Kings College Hospital, London indicated that my condition had worsened. I was pushed through quickly for assessment for transplant and listed early August.

"I am currently being closely monitored by the transplant team at Kings and waiting for the call to say they have an organ for me. Unfortunately there are not enough donors to supply everyone on the list, so being listed is a double edged sword - on one hand the chance at getting your life back, on the other a substantially reduced life span. At present I have a 50 per cent chance of surviving a year.”

Garath explains this significantly changes how you live and view your life. He went on: “While some find strength and determination, others can struggle. As I imagine you can guess I hope I fall into the first category. I will not let fear control my life.”

The technical term for Gareth’s illness is a mechanical bile obstruction which is causing secondary biliary cirrhosis.

Gareth, who works for an agricultural machinery contractor, has a four year old daughter, Poppy who started school for the first time this week.

He went on: “In terms of being active I was able to attend the indoor rowing championships in December 2015 with the help of my local gym. The gym

took three of the top six positions in the team event.

"This year I had hoped to return to do an individual two kilometre race, but at present it looks unlikely. I wanted to do something that was relevant so I felt cycling the distance from my home to hospital in London would be something I could achieve in my current condition. During the week I would find as many ways as possible to raise awareness, and it feels great to be able to give something back.”

When we spoke to Gareth on Tuesday he had completed the first 11km of the 80.7km, and pledged to continue through until Sunday. “In the future I would like to do something each month as long as my body will allow it, up to the time I get the call and my second life will then start.”

Earlier this week, the NHS reported at least 34 people in East Sussex have had their lives transformed by organ donation in the last year.. The NHS, in its Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report released on Thursday (September 1), say more people than ever before across the UK donated their organs after their deaths last year,

Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation at the NHS, said:“We’re very grateful to every family in East Sussex who supported a relative’s decision to donate or who made the decision to donate on behalf of their relative last year. Quite simply, without them being willing to support donation more than 3,500 transplants couldn’t have taken place in the UK. Many families in East Sussex tell us they take huge comfort in knowing that their relative has saved the lives of others.

“We recognise that families are approached about organ donation at a difficult time, but with almost all of us prepared to take an organ if we need one, we need to be ready to donate too.

"Think about what we would want others to do for us if we ever need a transplant and be prepared to donate. Talking to your relatives about what you want is crucial as it is much more difficult to agree to donation when you don’t know what the patient would have wanted.

"There are 66 people in East Sussex waiting for a transplant now and they need people to agree to donate for them to get the organ transplant they so desperately need."

If you would like to help others after your death tell your family your want to be an organ donor and join the NHS Organ Donor Register. To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323.

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