I’m going to be honest and say I hadn’t heard of Niki Lauda until this weekend. I’m not an F1 fan and other than accepting that it’s on in the background courtesy of my dad or boyfriend sometimes, occasionally wishing I could go VIP to Monaco Grand Prix (mainly for the party) and knowing that Lewis Hamilton once dated Nicole Sherzinger my knowledge is pretty much zero.
But on Friday this temporarily changed.
Niki Lauda, Austrian Formula 1 legend, had a double lung transplant. Now here’s something I do know a lot about after being lucky enough to have had my own double lung transplant last April at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.
Lauda reportedly had his transplant after falling ill on holiday in Ibiza in mid-July. It was reported that his condition had progressed and caused severe pneumonia. An appropriate donor was found in Hamburg, Germany and flown to Vienna where on Thursday 2 August, the F1 legend underwent the surgery.
So, initial issues in July to operation in August. A mere two months. And while I am sure it did not feel like a short wait for Lauda or his family, the reality is that in comparison to most people waiting for an organ transplant this is a minute amount of time.
On average in the UK according to Organ Donation UK, individuals will wait 18 months for a transplant from it being deemed medically necessary. This wait can be shorter for a lucky few but it can also be much, much longer and people often die waiting for a transplant. In 2015 it was revealed that in 10 years, over 49,000 people in the UK had to wait for a transplant and that over 6,000 had died waiting for the operation.
Organ donation has been in the news lately in regards to possible future opt-out systems for donations, but I wonder how many people are aware of this outside of the medical, transplant and associated community?
Probably not as many as read the sports news. A quick search engine trawl showed 5,810,000 results for Lauda and while not all of these stories will be recent thousands are. These articles will, over the last few days, have amassed millions of hits yet while mention of details around the transplant is varied it is largely scarce, often plays down on the severity of the surgery or barely mentions it at all. I am yet to read a piece which mentions the fact that Lauda was lucky to have been able to have a transplant, lucky that a match was found, and he didn’t have to wait, possible longer than he had.
So, while I know this blog won’t have the gravitas of most of those pieces I would urge anyone who is able to consider signing up to be an organ donor. It might not save a celebrity’s life, but it could save the life of a mother, a husband, a sister, a son, of one of over 6,000 individuals in the UK alone who has run out of other options and is waiting for that call to let them know that their second chance has come. It takes two minutes: www.organdonation.nhs.uk.