A RENAL transplant nurse from Oswaldtwistle has told of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on her job after celebrating Organ Donor Week slightly differently this year.

Jennifer Barlow, 39, renal transplant practitioner at Royal Preston Hospital, was looking forward to celebrating during the special week with the introduction of Max and Kiera’s Law, however with the ban on social gatherings, the team at Preston have discovered new ways to celebrate.

Jennifer said: “It’s a disappointing year because we have had so much to celebrate with the new law. It’s also going ahead that we are getting an organ donation memorial garden for anyone who has donated anything at Royal Preston Hospital.

“Usually we would have a big celebration doing all sorts. We’ve had to stay as safe as possible, do everything virtually in teams and there’s been a lot on Twitter and a lot on social media.”

“It’s vitally important, the waiting list for kidneys just isn’t getting shorter.

“We’ve had a couple of months where the transplant programe was put on hold because of the Covid pandemic. It’s back up and running and has caught up wonderfully.”

Jennifer has worked through the lockdown, however her job role has changed quite significantly to what it was before.

The new law which was introduced on May 20 has changed organ donation to an opt-out policy.

The law has been named after Kiera Ball, who died aged nine in 2017, and Max Johnson, now aged 12, who was saved by her heart.

“It’s not saying it’s right or wrong,” said Jennifer “It’s completely your own decision. It’s making sure you share that decision with you family and friends.”

The Preston transplant ward ordinarily looks after 800 post-transplant patients with a team of seven including Jennifer.

Before the pandemic, patients would be between three to six months post-transplant.

The operations take place at Manchester Royal Infirmary, however, due to the operations and illness leaving patients with a lowered immune system, the NHS has tried to avoid patients travelling if possible.

“Because of the pandemic, we didn’t want people travelling so they have been transferring them back to us sometimes six weeks after the transplant. We’ve had to adapt and change roles and create new clinics,” Jennifer explained.

“It’s been a lot more involved with the new transplant patients because they often come back a lot less stable than they would do after three to six months.”

Transplant patients need to receive constant check-ups after their operation, however at the moment, coming into a hospital poses a big risk for patients.

Nurses still need to perform close-up procedures including taking blood as this is used to monitor medication and work out what doses are needed.

“Our patients still have to get their bloods done, there’s no option around it,” she added.

“We’ve created a safe zone blood test clinic ran by myself and a colleague where the patients can come into an area of the hospital which has been very well adapted to do social distancing.

“We give them scheduled appointment times so there aren’t more than two people in this waiting room.”

In another safety measure, the hospital has organised a drive-in medication service, meaning people don't have to leave their cars.