Push for more organ donors

Organ transplant recipients yesterday called for a concerted campaign to boost public awareness about organ transplants in Greece, which has one of the lowest rate of organ donors in Europe. Speaking to Kathimerini ahead of today’s National Organ Donor Day, citizens who have undergone transplants said more donors were needed to cut long waiting lists. Antonis Gialelakis, the 39-year-old president of the National Transplant Organization, said he was lucky to get his heart transplant within a week of diagnosis in 2002. Most patients are not so fortunate, waiting an average of six years for a transplant. Some 900 are on a waiting list. But with just eight donors per million of the population, not all of them will get the organs they need. To make matters worse, there has been a steady drop in the number of transplants conducted in Greece, with just 150 this year as compared to 242 in 2006 and 280 in 2005. Widespread public ignorance about transplants is a big problem, according to Christos Svarnas, president of the Panhellenic Association of Kidney Transplant Patients. «The public has not really taken in the idea of donating organs,» said Svarnas, 53, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2001. He called for more television commercials at peak viewing times. A key barrier to organ donation are objections from relatives of brain-dead donors. Nikolaos Voulgarelis, whose son was left with brain damage after a car accident, respected his son’s wishes and committed his organs for donation. He appealed to others to follow his example. «His death was unfair – but because of him someone else lived,» Voulgarelis said. Information kiosks will be set up in Syntagma Square today with details about organ donation.