Real World Problems

NANCY NAPPER CANTER highlights a real problem in amongst our Cambridge ‘woes’.

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The phrase ‘first world problems’ has been bandied around a lot recently. But I really don’t think it can be bandied around enough. Particularly in Cambridge. Particularly in week eight.

It’s easy to start feeling self-pitying and fatigued by this point in the term. I’m bored of the menu in hall, I still have four essays to write, and I’ve been set so much work for the holiday that it doesn’t look like I’ll get much of a break anyway. It’s been a long term; I got here on the 22nd September. So I’ve been here for sixty-three days. And counting.

Yesterday at 7.30pm, there was a programme called Waiting For a Heart on ITV1, featuring my friend Will. Given that it was on yesterday, I should have written this piece yesterday. Better late than never though, hey? That’s what Will and his family must be thinking.

Will is twenty and has had heart problems since he was sixteen. Over the summer he went on a trip to Mongolia, and came back in trouble: his heart had deteriorated and he needed surgery. He’s been in hospital waiting for a transplant ever since.

Full Michaelmas term is sixty-nine days long. Will has been waiting for a heart for more than eighty days. And counting. Recently, his other organs started to fail because his heart wasn’t pumping enough blood around his body. As a result he’s now being kept alive by a machine.

Most of you probably know this already, but I had no idea that there was a chronic shortage of organs available for transplant until about a week ago when I heard that Will still hadn’t had the necessary surgery. There are over a hundred and forty people across the UK in a similar position: waiting for a heart.

They’re waiting because there aren’t enough organ donors. While ninety percent of the people in Britain say they would be prepared to donate organs after their death, less than one third are actually on the organ donor register. That’s a lot of organs going to waste.

There’s a moment on the programme when Will says, ‘I’m so fatigued’. It’s so different from the way we say it, as we reach work-saturation point in week eight. Will is still desperate for a heart; the mechanical device fitted to support his heart is only a temporary reprieve. If you have time, watch the programme on ITV Player. This second, sign up to the organ donor list. (If you haven’t already, that is.) You’ll be helping to solve a greater problem than any of your own.