This week is the 10th annual DonateLife week, a national public awareness initiative to encourage all Australians to register as organ and tissue donors. Cannings Purple Account Director, Ray Jordan writes about his personal experiences with organ donation.
DonateLife Week triggers so many mixed emotions and memories for me.
Organ donation is not exactly a top-of-mind subject for most people, unless you are one of those in desperate need of a transplant or working in the hospital system where you see people every day struggling when their bodies have failed them.
My first encounter was more than 40 years ago when I met my wife a couple of years after she had received a kidney in the first renal transplant ever at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
The fact that she lived a normal life for so long put the whole subject of organ donation into the background, but a few years ago that all changed and you can read that story on the The West Australian here.
In short, it fell on me to provide one of my kidneys as part of the living donor program, so that my wife could receive that life-changing transplant.
More recently I had a far more challenging and deeply emotional connection to organ donation after our son, Dan died after a long battle with a brain tumour.
As a family, we had spoken about organ donation and so we were all committed to it.
So, when Dan died after suffering massive brain haemorrhage, we were able to tell the doctors that it was his wish that his organs be donated.
Unfortunately, because of the tumour, and the likely impact on other major organs, that couldn’t be done, apart from his cornea.
We were subsequently informed that two people had their sight restored after receiving Dan’s cornea.
And, although I have never been able to bring myself to read the letters of thanks from the recipients, it was one positive and uplifting experience from the loss of our elder son.
There are so many mixed emotions associated with both experiences. The difficulty of watching my wife’s health deteriorate, the almost indescribable sense of loss in having to turn off the life-support for our son.
Yet in both, there was an incredible, almost spiritual, feeling of being able to make a difference. To make the lives of others better.
So, in this DonateLife Week, which runs until Sunday 1 August, we are all being asked to register as organ and tissue donors.
Currently there are about 1800 Australians on the transplant waiting list. In many instances they are desperately unwell – a matter of life and death.
DonateLife is asking all Australians to join the Great Registration Race, by either registering on the Australian Organ Donor Register, or checking that you are.
To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit donatelife.gov.au – it only takes a minute; all you need is your Medicare card.