Claire Corps (Image: Claire Corps)

Claire Corps, from Ripon, is a double transplant recipient, having had both a kidney and liver transplant.

Both transplants saved her life and after receiving a kidney 41 years ago, she is one of the longest survivors of a kidney transplant in the UK.

So this Organ Donation Week, Claire, now 53, is issuing a plea for people to have a conversation with their next of kin so families know the wishes of their loved ones.

The UK now operates on an opt-out system but as Claire points out – many families don’t know what their loved ones would have wanted and so many live-saving opportunities are missed.

Claire, who is now Dr Claire Corps, a transplant expert, shared her own story: “I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and at the age of 12 had to have a kidney transplant.

“By the time I was 24, I also needed a liver transplant.

“For me, it saved my life – by the December of 1980, I would have died without the transplant.

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“It is a long wait, where you need tests of tissue and blood done and needs to be as close a match as possible.

“The body sees the organ as a virus and attacks it so any organ recipient needs to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.

“But the transplant is life-saving and can come too late with such a long waiting list.

“GPs might know your wishes but relatives are the ones who make the final decision.

“When someone passes away, that organ is needed immediately as organs deteriorate so quickly.”

Mark Smith, of Harrogate, has also had a kidney transplant, and on World Kidney Day earlier this year, spoke out to raise awareness of organ donation
Mark Smith, of Harrogate, has also had a kidney transplant, and on World Kidney Day earlier this year, spoke out to raise awareness of organ donation

Claire now works at the same Leeds hospital that saved her life and is part of the Harrogate Network for Organ Donation Support which hopes to encourage conversation about organ donations in families.

Tomorrow (September 25), they will be setting off from Valley Gardens where a tree is planted in honour of donors, and heading into Harrogate’s centre, speaking to shoppers about the importance of having the conversation.

Claire continued: “Speaking with donor families, many say that whilst it’s obviously not the same as having them, it’s amazing to know that they’re continuing to help even where they’re not there.

“But it’s a hard decision.

“I spoke with a father who had lost his son.

“When his son was little, he had watched Blue Peter where a group of children needing transplants appeared on the show.

“That show had made him decide that if he died, he wanted to donate and that was something he had discussed with his family.

(Image: NHS Blood and Transplant)

“It turned out that the episode he watched was the episode I was on, talking about my transplant.

“The father said that although his son’s story was over, thanks to the show, his son’s heart was able to propel someone down the pool, to live.

“People are more likely to need an organ than they are to donate but in the community, we say, you don’t take organs to heaven.

“People don’t realise how many lives one person can save.

“You could save up to eight, even give sight through a cornea transplant.”

Claire also touched on the myths that often surround organ donation.

Donating organs does not delay or stop a funeral and no mainstream religion is against it either.

Those who donate are still able to have an open casket – donating an organ is treated exactly the same as a standard operation.

Claire, whose full job title is now Senior Research Scientist in Organ Preservation for Transplantation, added: “I wasn’t supposed to see out childhood but thanks to organ donation, I did.

“I’ve lost too many people, too much – conversations could mean more organ donations are able to take place.”

The first organ transplantation took place in 1954 between identical twins.

In 1970, the kidney donor card started in UK and 2020 saw the UK change to the opt out law.

You can also become a living donor for organs such as a kidney and liver.

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