THE Western Health and Social Care Trust has a new Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation (SNOD), based at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).

Noelle Melarkey has been in the current post for one year, which included a training period of six months that included a mixture of classroom, interactive learning and close mentorship within the various ICU departments in Northern Ireland, gaining hands-on experience in real clinical practice.

A SNOD provides End of Life Care (EOLC) options.

Noelle said: “Organ donation can bring great comfort to some families following the death of their loved one.

“We support the family to make the right decision for them by providing information on organ donation.

“It is always helpful when the family know their loved one’s wishes when asked to make these decisions.

“When the family honour their loved one’s wishes, or decide on their behalf it would be something they would have wanted, the SNOD plans and organises all aspects of the donation process.

“Within my embedded role, I deliver teaching, organ donation promotion and support to the critical care staff to identify and refer patients when they have the potential to become an organ donor.”

Noelle studied as a nurse in Queen’s University, Belfast, before qualifying in 2000 and working in Tyrone County Hospital, the old Erne Hospital and SWAH before becoming a SNOD.

She added: “It was an area of nursing I was always interested in. From a theatre perspective, I was in awe of the donors and families being able to think of others during this difficult time in their own lives.

“Whilst working in theatre, I had the opportunity of helping facilitate a few of the retrieval operations.

“Watching the joint effort and skills of the retrieval surgeons, SNODS and other members of the team carefully and respectfully organising, planning and operating to retrieve the organs for transplantation that would go on to save the lives of others ... always astounded me.

“I knew then it was a career I wanted to pursue in the future.”

Noelle said the role is “truly unique and inspiring”, and she finds it rewarding to help families during such difficult circumstances.

“It’s a privilege to be able to help families in such difficult times. Organ donation doesn’t lessen the pain a family feels when they lose someone they love; however, having something positive coming from tragedy can be comforting for them.

“Without the organ donor, there would be no story, no hope, no transplants.

“But when there is an organ donor, life springs from death, sorrow turns to hope and a terrible loss becomes a gift.”