Eleana Vrozidi, 28, who has been on the waiting list for a transplant operation for three years and two months, attends the Hellenic Transplant Organization's social awareness event in Athens, Greece, on April 15, 2019. Greece aims to double the rate of human organ donations for transplants within the next two years, the President of the Hellenic Transplant Organization (EOM), Andreas Karabinis, told Xinhua on Monday. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
ATHENS, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Greece aims to double the rate of human organ donations for transplants within the next two years, the President of the Hellenic Transplant Organization (EOM), Andreas Karabinis, told Xinhua on Monday.
Greece currently holds the last place across Europe as far as transplants are concerned, according to official statistics, with the rate of organ donations standing at about 5-6 per one million people, while the European average is 12-16, Karabinis said during a social awareness event hosted in Athens.
"The reasons are mainly organizational. People do not trust the healthcare system. There is lack of knowledge regarding brain death and there is lack of knowledge and trust concerning Intensive Care Units. We have a lot of work to do. We take one step at a time and we hope that in the next two years we will be around 11-12," said the expert of the EOM, which coordinates and controls human organs, tissues and cells donation and transplantation in Greece.
The EOM organized the social awareness event on Monday at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens in coordination with the Onassis Foundation and the EUDONORGAN project which is supported by the European Commission and the European parliament.
The EUDONORGAN project aims to promote organ donation and transplants in the European Union and neighboring countries.
Donation in contrast to any financial transaction concerning transplants is the key word, Karabinis stressed.
Karabinis expressed confidence that the creation of a national transplant center in Athens in the next two years will boost efforts to increase the rates in Greece.
The "Onassis National Transplant Center" will be dedicated to solid organ transplants, with a total budget of 100 million euros (113 million U.S. dollars) provided by the Onassis Foundation, which was created by the late Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis to honor the memory of his son Alexander who died in an airplane crash in 1973.
The center, to be built next to the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, is expected to be ready in two years and will also include the first transplant unit exclusively for children in Greece.
According to the Onassis Foundation, the new center will be a public hospital, like the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, where all citizens can have access.
Patients who have underwent transplantation or are still on the waiting list for an organ were among those participating at Monday's event.
Katerina Tsantou, 34, received a heart transplant at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center seven years ago.
"It was extremely difficult just hearing about transplantation, because until then I had no idea about it. I hadn't even heard the word... It was very difficult for me to accept the idea and I delayed the process for a year," she told Xinhua.
She was on the waiting list for 8 months. She was lucky in her ordeal because due to her rare blood type and other factors she was the only compatible candidate when the family of a 16-year-old boy who died in a nearby hospital of aneurysm donated all his organs.
"I am grateful to them every day. I wish other people will follow their example and say Yes to organs donation... I am certain that after receiving full information one can only say Yes to this," Tsantou said.
Eleana Vrozidi 28, has been on the waiting list for three years and two months.
"I have no anxiety about undergoing the transplant operation. I am anxious about when it will happen, because the time of dependence on the device is too long and I have started to feel tired," she told Xinhua referring to the medical device which keeps her alive.
"It is difficult, because there is always anxiety about something happening. I have come to terms with this. My relatives are more anxious than me," she explained.
She believed the low rates of organ donors in Greece was due to lack of information about the procedures.
"I understand that someone may be afraid, but really there is no reason to be. Only when a patient is clinically dead, organs are removed. Clinically dead means there is no possibility of returning to life. It is different from being in a coma. People have not understood the difference yet," she stressed.