“My starting point is that I have the power to change something and I go from there, says Shibu Chacko MBE recipient – UKMALAYALEE

“My starting point is that I have the power to change something and I go from there, says Shibu Chacko MBE recipient

Saturday 8 June 2019 2:38 AM UTC

By Balagopal

“My starting point is that I have the power to change something and I go from there”, says Shibu Chacko, the recipient of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) who will remain a pride for the UK Malayalee community in years to come for the works he has done within the NHS Trust in the United Kingdom.

According to Shibu “everyone has a power to change something and its that power that one needs to identify and make the starting point” and Shibu proves it through his works, which will set a leading example for whoever reads his story.

Life and work hasnt been so much rosy for Shibu Chacko. He got inspired by his grandad whose motto was “if something’s not right, then do something about it” and he did it. He was able also “to pick himself up when things have gone wrong – as they have, not infrequently”.

Talking to Shibu, he oozes with confidence and spreads a positive vibe and its worth hearing from the youngest awardee of one of the most coveted and highest honour from the British Empire.

Shibu Chakco speaks to Balagopal Kent in an exclusive interview.

Exceprts from the interview

So, how does it feel to be awarded an MBE?

I am extremely honoured to have been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and delighted that the work I do with promotion of organ donation among the minority communities in the UK is considered to be worthy of inclusion.

It was a big surprise, even though I have been a nurse for many years, I never thought I will ever be in line for things like this. I feel deeply privileged doing the job I do and I am passionate about the volunteer work for creating an understanding of organ donation in the BME community.

Throughout my career I have been privileged to meet and be supported and inspired by so many extraordinary people and to that extent this award is as much about their contribution as it is my own.

I want to thank all of my supportive family, my wonderful friends, my dream team, and my inspirational colleagues in NHS Blood and transplant who have supported me along the way.

Can you please share with us some of those achievements which would have made you eligible for this honour?

It was mainly my work within the Black and Minority Ethnic communities (BME) communities on organ donation. I had also created the world’s first course on Organ donation for healthcare professionals to understand the key processes in organ donation; in partnership with the St. George’s University of London.

This course was developed as I identified a clear need for organ donation education among the health professionals during my role as a specialist nurse and NHS Blood and Transplant has fully endorsed this course as an approved programme of study.

I am a lead educator for the course along with a professor from the University. This course has been a huge success and has received excellent feedback from professionals within and outside the UK.

Many medical universities in the UK such as St. Georges, UCLH has made it as a mandatory programme for the medical students to undertake as part of their final year of study. So far this course has been attended by over 2,800 learners from 78 countries. Link to the course below (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/organ-donation)

I became the first Donor Ambassador of the NHS Blood and Transplant in the UK in 2015 and worked as a community volunteer to promote organ and blood donation among various faith and minority communities in the South of England and achieved over 3,000 new registrations to NHS Organ Donor Register.

I have also organised three multi faith events on end of life and organ donation in the South East (Croydon, Lewisham and Frimley) over the last two years in collaboration with the local faith communities and the NHS Trusts which paved way for many promotion events among the minority communities.

I created and delivered nationally; a ‘BME Specific Educational Package on Family attitudes and communication’ for professionals working with NHS Blood and Transplant to address their concerns and to provide essential tips on effective communication with minority groups during bereavement.

Please say what your present role is within NHS. What does your work involve and what voluntary works you do i.e beyond what your work requires you to do?

I work as a Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation with NHS Blood and Transplant in the South East region of England. I work in hospitals across the UK to support families through the organ donation process and act as the key point of contact for organ donation within the hospital and work directly with families and doctors to ensure that all those who die in circumstances where they are able and want to donate organs for transplant are given the opportunity to do so. I also support families during end of life care period and discuss organ donation options with them.

Organ donation comes at a traumatic of times for families – when a loved one dies. Talking about organ donation as part of the end of life care is very emotional for families and I am responsible for handling complex situations sensitively by giving appropriate support to the donor family. One of the biggest challenges of the role is addressing family concerns in an environment of grief and sadness.

My role mainly involves supporting families in intensive care units and emergency departments in making an informed choice on organ donation and then facilitating the whole process of donation.

I work with clinicians and hospital staff but I also engage with local communities as well, to help raise awareness and answer questions and address misunderstandings about organ donation.

I enjoy the variety of my role, working with adults, young people and children and members of the multidisciplinary teams in various hospitals. Although the work can be very emotional, I meet such lovely people every day and working with families means, there is a lot of fun and laughter as well as sadness.

Organ donation and transplantation is such a prominent field of medicine and I am honoured to be a small part of the team that is continuously working to make each patient’s life better.

When I started my role in donation 5 years ago, I was faced with the reality of a high number of family declines from the minority families when approached for organ donation.

The main reasons I have identified were poor understanding of the importance of donation, lack of information about how the donation is facilitated, fear of mutilation, cultural and religious reasons etc. As I experienced several declines from my own South Asian community, I have decided to do something to address this issue.

As I had established links with the ethnic minority communities in South East through my role as an office bearer of a community organisation in Kent, I have decided to utilise these links to spread the message among my community members. I have used presentations, teachings, leaflets and social media to encourage people to sign up to become donors and have a discussion among their family members.

Initial responses were not up to the expectations and I have faced difficulties such as poor acceptance and poor welcome from various community groups. I have used an approach as an educator and campaigner, used leaflets in regional languages and spent time in clarifying people’s doubts about the process.

On average 30-40 people signed up from each event organised. The use of an altruistic kidney donor from within the community has helped me to gain deeper access to some communities and the opportunities for teaching has widened.

I have also tailored the information to the level of communities understanding and used a language they can understand.

I have also identified that many faith communities engage in health promotion activities among their community members in areas such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, diabetes and hypertension management etc and I have requested them to include organ donation to their established activities.

This allowed me to gain access to several awareness events across south-east and London among the minority communities.

Once the campaigns widened and established, I have formed a voluntary group in 2016 (DONATE LIFE UK) to coordinate the activities and used social media as a powerful engagement tool. The various activities over the last 5 years allowed me to achieve over 3000 new registrations to the NHS organ donor register, through paper registration, electronic campaign and also through the online course platform.

Through these activities and through the networking gained, I managed to gain a deeper understanding of different minority groups over the years.

The valuable information gained was used to design a ‘BME Specific Educational Package on Family attitudes and communication’ for professionals working with NHS Blood and Transplant to address their concerns and to provide essential tips on effective communication with minority groups during bereavement.

I delivered this training session to the organ donation professionals nationally and received excellent feedback from my colleagues. This experience reflected on my own practice and I achieved over 90 per cent consent rates consistently over the years.

I am very passionate about organ donation and transplantation and enjoyed working as a donor ambassador among various minority communities in the UK in addition to my full-time role.

This key role has allowed me to raise awareness for donation, a prominent role in national awareness campaigns especially for the upcoming law change in England surrounding organ donation through organising presentations, donation promotion stands and also by working among the faith leaders.

This role allowed me to engage with communities to generate opportunities to share the inspiring message and correct information about organ donation.

3. What inspires your most and what do you enjoy most in life i.e. which are the top three priorities?

Most people are already familiar with the important role of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in providing the wider NHS with a constant stock of blood supply. NHSBT are responsible for the coordination and management of organ donation and transplantation activities in the UK and the management of the Organ Donor Register (ODR).

My role within NHS Blood and Transplant is hugely rewarding and full of challenges, which is great, there’s never a dull moment! The great part about working with NHS Blood and Transplant is; we collaboratively leverage each other’s strengths, teaming together across the region.

I value the independence and autonomy entrusted to me to go into different hospitals in the region at any time to offer support and guidance to patients’ families and staff members and to give guidance and information on organ and tissue donation options.

NHSBT has provided me with great opportunities to learn from others and share ideas locally in the Southeast region, nationally and internationally, all focussed on the same mission, saving lives together.

Top three priorities of my career:
1. Building relationships with other professionals
2. Time Management – Getting things done well in advance
3. Have high ethical and moral standards in personal and professional life

4. Who inspired you most and who do you see as a role model in your life?

I think in today’s competitive environment, we tend to focus on measuring competencies, abilities, skills and knowledge; however, we fail to recognise the importance of inspiration role. My granddad is a big influence on me, and he has the view that if something is not right, then do something about it.

There was always a kind of ‘responsibility to act’, especially if you have any kind of influence and actually all of us has more than we think. My starting point is that I have the power to change something and I go from there. I am very proud of the fact that I have been able to pick myself up when things have gone wrong – as they have, not infrequently!

5. Where are you settled in the UK and where are you from in Kerala?

I always lived in Chatham (Medway) ever since I arrived in the UK back in 2002. I was born in Koothattukulam in Ernakulam District (South India).

6. Please say a brief about your family and children and what they do?

I am married with 2 sons. My sons are currently studying in secondary school and my wife works for Medway NHS Trust as a staff nurse in critical care.

7. Please say how you were supported in your work and in your career by the people in Britain. Who was behind you with support?

I was supported by my organisation and my previous NHS employers throughout my career by offering additional courses and qualification. I was very fortunate to undertake higher level qualifications including my PhD with the full support of the NHS and I am very grateful for this the incredible opportunities for further development, this country has provided me.

I really am very grateful and feel very humbled by this recognition. I feel deeply privileged doing the job I do and I am passionate about creating an understanding of organ donation in the BME communities.

Throughout my career, I have been privileged to meet and be supported and inspired by so many extraordinary people and to that extend this appointment as MBE is much about their contribution as it is my own.

I am deeply proud to work for NHS and in public service, and would like to pay tribute to my wonderful family who supported me in all I do.

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