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Brave Teddy highlights need for ‘Gift of Life’

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Adam Hughes: Just after his transplant.

Adam Hughes: Just after his transplant.

FOR Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff, the birth of twin boys Teddy and Noah on April 22 2014 was one of both heartbreak and hope. Teddy was born with a rare yet fatal condition – anencephaly – but his parents were determined his short life would not be in vain. Once the diagnosis was confirmed during pregnancy, the parents discussed and wanted, if possible, for his organs to be donated. The family managed to spend precious time with him before he passed away and Teddy became the youngest organ donor in the UK. In the last ten years, 39 babies younger than two years old have become organ donors helping to save the lives of strangers.

As his twin Noah celebrated his first birthday the family used the anniversary to mark the occasion when his brother Teddy became a hero. His kidneys were transplanted to help save the life of another person.

Jess, 28, said: “Knowing that part of your loved one is living on in someone else is comforting. If it stops any other person going through the same thing then this can only be good. Teddy´s life had a very important role to play. Unless you have been through the same thing or know someone affected it´s hard to understand how important organ donation is.”

Mike, 30, added: “We want Teddy´s story to inspire others and help break any taboos people might still hold regarding organ donation. Organ donation wasn´t prominent in my life growing up and while I was up for it I never got round to doing anything about it. I´m sure there are many more men like me who think the same! I want to spread the word as much as possible about how organ donation saves lives, and that we should all speak to each other about our wishes. Without that discussion it is a very difficult conversation to have when it comes out of the blue. Put simply, you should ask yourself the question “Would you take an organ if you needed it?” Everyone would do so if the truth were told so we hope what Teddy did can educate people and prompt them to get talking.”

April 22 2015, the one year anniversary of Teddy’s heroism, was also a personal milestone for myself, it marked six months to the day since I received my kidney transplant and got to experience first hand the ‘gift of life’. In April 2013 I was admitted to hospital with symptoms of cramps, breathlessness, headaches, nosebleeds and chest pains. A simple blood pressure test at the doctor’s surgery had indicated a blood pressure reading of 230/170, high by anyone’s standards, but stratospheric for a 25 year-old.

This was the start of a three week stay in hospital. I had suffered Chronic Renal Failure, my blood readings were so dangerously unbalanced that I was told I may not have survived a fortnight longer. My blood pressure had been so high for so long that my heart’s muscular walls had doubled in size, I was seriously ill. Although I knew I hadn’t been feeling right for a few months, my decline from being a fit and healthy individual to being registered on the transplant waiting list was swift.

For nearly two years I was in a daily routine of medications, injections and ten hours of dialysis which took place overnight. I was unable to eat almost all of the food I liked and travel, which had been one of my main interests, was made almost impossible through the sheer amount of equipment and supplies I would have to take with me in order to survive.

For me the only option was a transplant and with an average waiting time for a kidney of between three and five years I was incredibly fortunate to have received a match in just under two years. I am one of the lucky ones and the need for donors has never been more urgent. More than 8,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant. Despite the huge advances in medicine and the great success of transplant operations, people are still dying while waiting.

There is a critical shortage of organs and the gap between the number of people waiting for a transplant and the number of organs donated is increasing. One donor can save the life of several people, restore the sight of two others and improve the quality of life of many more. The more people who pledge to donate their organs and tissue after their death, the more people stand to benefit.

In a recent survey 90% of people said they supported organ donation and almost everyone would accept a transplant if they or their loved one needed one. Yet only a third of people in the UK have registered to be an organ donor. Last year, over 40% of families refused to allow organ donation to go ahead, sometimes even when their loved one was a registered donor.

In September 2013 the Welsh Assembly passed what it described as it’s ‘most significant’ legislation to date. From December 1, Wales will be the first UK country to introduce a soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation. The new law aims to make it easier for people in Wales to become organ donors. From this date, if you have not registered a decision to opt-in or opt-out of organ donation, you will be treated as having no objection to being an organ donor. This is called deemed consent. Thus meaning that if you did not want to donate your organs then you would have to ‘opt-out’.

In 2012/13, 36 people died in Wales whilst waiting for an organ transplant as a donor could not be found. In 2011/12 30,000 people died in Wales. Around 250 of these died in a way that would have allowed them to become a potential organ donor. But only 67 people became organ donors. Through the ‘opt out’ legislation it is hoped that waiting times for people requiring organ transplants and the number of preventable deaths can be reduced significantly.

It is rare for families to be in the awful situation where their loved one could be a potential donor. In 43% of cases where organ donation is possible, families say no to donation because they don’t know whether their loved one wanted to be a donor. When the new system is in place, families will know their loved one could have opted out if they didn’t want to be a donor. Therefore by proceeding with organ donation, they can be reassured that they are carrying out the decision of their loved one.

The law will mean if you support organ donation but simply haven’t got around to signing the Organ Donor Register, you won’t need to. As someone who has experienced first hand the positive impact organ donation can have upon a person’s life, the law change is an extremely positive move. Despite this I would still encourage people to sign up to be an organ donor. My message is a simple one: if you would accept an organ, surely you should be prepared to be a donor. Sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your relatives that you want to donate. You can do this online by following the links on http://www.organdonation. nhs.uk or by calling 0300 123 23 23.

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The tale of the WW2 Luftwaffe pilot who mistakenly landed in west Wales

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IT WAS this time of year, 1942, that a bizarre series of events led to a German fighter pilot landing at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, unintentionally aiding the war effort of The Allied Forces in the process.

On June 23, 1942, Oberleautnant Armin Fabar was ordered to a fly a combat mission along with his squadron, in response to an Allied bombing raid of northern France.

Armin Faber mistakenly flew to South Wales after the dog-fight

Fabar’s squadron (the 7th Staffel) all flew Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes. These planes were seen as superior to the then current Spitfires of the Allied Forces, and in the subsequent dog-fight that developed over The English Channel seven Spitfires were shot down, compared to only two Focke-Wulf 190s (FW-190s).

One Czechoslovakian Spitfire pilot, Alois Vašátko, dramatically lost his life when, in the fray of combat, he collided head-on with an FW-190. The German pilot bailed out and was later captured by Allied Forces.

Spitfire pilot Alois Vašátko lost his life in the battle

In the ensuing battle, Faber became disorientated and was separated from his squadron. He was attacked by a Spitfire manned by Seargent František Trejtnar. In a desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer, Faber fled North over the skies of Devon. He pulled off a brilliant ‘Immelman Turn’, a move in which the sun is used to dazzle a pursuer on your tail. Now flying directly from Trejtnar’s view of the sun, Faber shot him down.

Trejtnar crashed near the village of Black Dog, Devon suffering shrapnel wounds and a broken arm.

The victorious Faber had another problem entirely, though he was unaware of it at the time. He had mistaken The Bristol Channel for The English Channel, and flew north into south Wales, thinking it was northern France!

Finding the nearest airfield – RAF Pembrey, in Carmarthernshire, Faber prepared to land. Observers on the ground ‘could not believe their eyes’ as Faber waggled his wings in a victory celebration, lowered the Focke-Wulf’s undercarriage and landed.

Faber expected to be greeted with open arms by his German brothers, but was instead greeted by Pembrey Duty Pilot, Sgt Matthews, pointing a flare gun at his face (he had no other weapon to hand).

As the gravity of the mistake slowly dawned on him, the stricken Faber was ‘so despondent that he attempted suicide’ unsuccessfully.

Faber was later driven to RAF Fairwood Common for interrogation under the escort of Group Captain David Atcherley. Atcherley, fearful of an escape attempt, aimed his revolver at Faber for the entire journey. At one point the car hit a pothole, causing the weapon to fire; the shot only narrowly missing Faber’s head!

Fabers mistaken landing in Wales was a gift for The Allied Forces, a disaster for The Third Reich.

He had inadvertently presented the RAF with one of the greatest prizes of the entire war – an intact example of the formidable Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane, an aircraft the British had learned to fear and dread ever since it made its combat debut the previous year.

Over the following months Faber’s plane was examined in minute detail, the allies desperately looking for any weakness in the FW-190. There were few to be found.

They did find one, however.

The FW-190s became relatively sluggish at higher altitudes. This knowledge aided the Allied Forces and saved countless lives, as the aerial battles turned increasingly in their favour.

Faber was taken as a prisoner of war, eventually being sent to a POW camp in Canada. Towards the end of the war he was sent home to Germany due to his ill health.

49 years later Faber would visit the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, where parts of his FW-190 are displayed to this day, along with parts of the Spitfire that he shot down in the skies over Devon. He presented the Museum with his officer’s dagger and pilot’s badge.

This little-known but important piece of Carmarthenshire history illustrates not only the high-stakes arms race between The Third Reich and The Allied Forces during WW2, but also the cost of human error.

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NSPCC: Wales conference puts spotlight on domestic abuse

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PROTECTING women and children from domestic abuse was the focus of a ground-breaking conference in Wales this week (Mar 28).

Organised by Cardiff University’s Exchange Network – with support from NSPCC Cymru / Wales and Welsh Women’s Aid – the event aimed to share information on the most effective approaches to tackle all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and support for victims – be they adults or children.

Preventing violence from happening and protecting those who fall victim to domestic abuse formed the focus of the conference, at Cardiff’s Novotel Hotel.

Representatives from Welsh Government, Relate Cymru, Barnardos and Rape and Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre also attended.

Domestic abuse continues to be a significant reason for young people to contact Childline. In 2016/17 volunteers at the NSPCC-run helpline undertook 120 counselling sessions with children from Wales who had concerns about abuse by a partner in their own relationship.

And 241 children from Wales contacted Childline to discuss parental domestic abuse.

Some young people who witness this also experience physical abuse by their parents. This can sometimes happen when they try and intervene in the abuse taking place, with some children telling Childline they were hit by their mother or father when trying to stop a fight.

“Sometimes my dad gets in a bad mood and gets really aggressive. He says horrible things to me and my mum and it scares me. In the past he was threatening to hit my mum, when I tried to get him to calm down he slapped me instead. I feel like neither of them listen to me and they don’t understand how upset it’s all making me.” (Girl, 16-18, Wales)

Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Des Mannion, told The Llanelli Herald: “Domestic abuse can have a huge impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing and it’s hugely important that we share information and discuss ways to both prevent violence and protect victims.

“We all have a part to play in tackling domestic abuse and it’s important to pick up the phone if you’re concerned so that our advisers can offer guidance and get help where it’s needed.

“Stepping in early helps to change behaviours and avoid abuse escalating, and putting the child at the heart of interventions is paramount in keeping children safe and limiting long-term damage.

“It is also vital that children and young people affected by domestic abuse have access to the right kind of support to overcome the trauma of witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse.”

Any child worried about domestic abuse can call Childline on 0800 11 11. Any adult who is concerned about a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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Pop-up craft stalls return to St Elli

Tamsin Mathias

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Photo credit: www.stelli.co.uk/about-us/

LLANELLI’S St Elli Shopping Centre is once again playing host to a fantastic group of pop-up craft stalls today and tomorrow (Mar 1-2).

Following on from a highly successful outing just before Christmas, the ‘Pert A Blasus Pop-Up Emporium’ will see a variety of crafters take to the Atrium to sell their handmade crafts.

A group of friends who met whilst running stalls at craft markets around South Wales, Pert A Blasus brings together a host of skill sets and backgrounds – including a former kitchen fitter and scaffolder, a former clerical assistant, and a primary school teacher.

Primary school teacher Jill Davies has been crafting most of her life as a hobby; however, seven years ago decided to launch ‘Dzines by Jill’, which sees her hand-decorate plain pieces of ceramic and household items with her own unique designs.

Jill also organises her own ‘Made it Markets’ in Neath.

Also on board with Pert A Blasus is Steve Kennedy, who is the brainchild of ‘Cut n Scroll’, where he hand cuts items from wood and enlists the help of his wife Tanya for painting and gemming; Wendy Taylor, also a primary school teacher, who completed a precious metal course at Gower College and now makes her own items for her ‘Simplicity by Silver’ stall; and Jill James who runs her ‘Pretty Cute Fairies’ stall.

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