Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Two minutes to save a life: sign up to donate organs

This year, 1,000 people in the UK alone will die because of a shortage of donor organs. There are 8,000 people in the UK currently waiting for an organ transplant that could save or transform their life.

90% of people in the UK, when questioned, said they would allow their organs to be used. Yet only 23% have signed up. Statistically, you are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor.

To coincide with World Health Day, today is also national Donor Day. In the time it takes you to read this, or boil the kettle for a cup of tea, you could have signed up to the Organ Donor Register and helped save a life.

I am passionate about encouraging as many people as possible to sign up; to close the yawning gap between the number of people saying they would and those that actually do. I'm doing this because I know only too well what waiting on the transplant list is like.

I was a perfectly healthy teenager when suddenly, just after Christmas 2004, I was taken ill and rushed into hospital. I was told that same day that I had end stage renal failure (ESRF) and needed to go on dialysis immediately, and remain on it for the foreseeable future until a suitable donor kidney was found. Aged 17, this came as an enormous shock to me and my family.

From then on, I required dialysis three times a week for three hours at a time. As well as dialysis, I had a strict fluid limit of 500mls per day and a special diet. The dialysis itself was restrictive, time-consuming and had unpleasant side-effects including low energy levels, tiring easily and almost constant nausea.

All the while, I waited patiently for that phone call saying the transplant was going to take place.

I am now 21 and I am pleased to say my story has a happy ending. In October 2008 I received the news I had been holding out for. A suitable kidney had been found.

Life since my transplant is barely recognisable; I have my health back and I am enjoying the freedom from dialysis which means I can do normal everyday things that people take for granted — socialising with friends, eating and drinking what I want. My family has got the old Holly back.

I've been using my newfound freedom to make sure other teenagers don't have to go through the same torturous waiting process I did: so that anyone, any age, anywhere has access to donor organs that could help save their life.

My campaign is called the Gift of Life , and today's national donor day is part of that. I've got an army of volunteers setting up donor desks across the UK to encourage people to sign up and then and then spread the word by displaying it on their social networking sites.

So go on, be a two-minute hero – put the kettle on. And while you're waiting, log on, sign up and save a life.

• Holly is one of 20 campaigners in Channel 4's Battlefront programme, which follows 20 young campaigners. The second series is showing next month
Reposted from the Guardian.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Minimal wages: the effect of the proposed fee cuts in family cases

I received this comment to my earlier post on the proposed fee cuts for family law advocates:

One day 8 hours, plus 10 hours preparation = 18 hours. 310/18 = £17.22 per hour. Minimum wage is £5.73 I am not sure your claim that you are paid less than the minimum wage is accurate. I am not in saying this supporting the proposals, however

The preparation time I quoted was a very conservative estimate based on simply reading the pages in the court bundle. In criminal cases 2 minutes a page are allowed. That would take the time up to 20 hours. In addition, although there are some cases when all I have to do is read the bundle, I usually have to do other preparation, such as check the law and any recent cases and think about the questions I am going to have to ask the witnesses, researching any medical or psychiatric issues etc. I also spend time travelling to court and speaking to my instructing solicitors on the telephone.

In addition the fee of £310 is the gross fee. In other words it is not what I take home. From my gross earnings I have to pay a contribution to the cost of running chambers & employing staff, subscriptions and legal books, travel expenses etc and then of course tax and national insurance. If I want to have any kind of pension or illness policy I need to pay contributions to that. My take home pay is about 50% of the gross fee.

I hope this begins to explain what I am fuming about. Family law cases involve some of the most serious decisions affecting children and family members. They must be able to be represented by advocates who have done a thorough job in preparing for the hearings.