On 9 September 2017, around 5,000 people gathered in Bern to celebrate the European Day for Organ Donation and Transplantation. The city’s Bundesplatz took centre stage, with visitors being treated to one spectacle after another. Particular highlights included the spectacular fly-past by the PC-7 TEAM of the Swiss Air Force, culminating in a heart being drawn in the sky over the Swiss capital, and the emotional moment when the entire SWISS TEAM from this year’s World Transplant Games released a number of balloons in honour of their donors’ families. With wonderful concert performances and entertainment provided by the compères, the event was an enormous success. There was also a range of other attractions to suit young and old, including a helicopter used by the air ambulance service, a flight simulator and a portable device used to transport organs. Despite the weather, everyone in attendance – visitors, those individuals and their families affected by the issue of organ transplantation, and the numerous helpers at the information stands – ensured this was a memorable day on the Bundesplatz and helped raise the profile of the topic of organ donation and transplantation.
The European Day for Organ Donation and Transplantation (EODD) was first held in 1996. Since then, the Council of Europe has joined forces with a different host country every year to stage the event and raise public awareness of organ donation and transplantation. This year, the EODD came to Switzerland. At the same time, Geneva marked the World Day for Organ Donation and Transplantation (WDODT) as part of the 2017 Organ Donation Congress, while the Swiss National Day for Organ Donation also fell on the same date. This was the first time that parallel events were held in one country to celebrate all three days.
The idea behind the European Day for Organ Donation and Transplantation is to support a different country every year in its attempts to raise public awareness of organ donation and transplantation and promote discourse on the topics. The lack of available organs has led to a long waiting list for transplants in Switzerland and across Europe, while the demand for organs continues to increase. By providing people with all the facts, Swisstransplant is aiming to ensure that everyone pauses to think about the subject of organ donation, makes a decision about becoming a donor and informs their next of kin about their wishes. In addition, a number of hospitals and medical professionals lent their support to the event in an attempt to encourage more people to become donors. The EODD was also an opportunity to acknowledge organ donors and their families and recognize the efforts of all the medical professionals involved in organ donation and transplantation across Europe, whose work saves lives and improves the quality of life for so many people.