I remember one of the first organ transplant patients I ever cared for as a nurse, around 25 years ago, was a man with liver disease waiting for a liver donation.
I remember the elation we all felt when a match was found for him, rushing in to tell him and prepare him for theatre. He looked at me weakly and said: “I’ve always been lucky like that.”
I’ve never forgotten that man.
When he was admitted to hospital he came in incredibly unwell. He left the hospital changed – a full life ahead of him.
Organ donation is a wonderfully unique part of the health care system to work in. It is characterised by the heartbreak and loss being felt by one family and the hope and relief being given to another.
In launching Australia’s 11th DonateLife Week on Sunday, I met with two cheeky, smiley young children who had received liver transplants themselves. Each is living a full and active life.
Their families told me there are two acts of generosity they are grateful for every day. That their child’s organ donor had signed up for organ donation and that the donor’s family said yes – consenting to organ donation on what must have been one of the hardest days of their lives.
Even after someone has registered as an organ donor, it is only through this ‘yes’ that up to seven lives can be saved through transplants, along with many others through eye and tissue donation.
Last year, there were 421 Australians who became organ donors – their generosity and that of their families made it possible for 1174 seriously ill people to receive an organ transplant. This represents about 56 per cent of families that were asked to consent to donation and said yes.
This goes to show there’s still room for us to help even more people. But how do we do this?
The answer is simple – by registering as an organ and tissue donor and, importantly, letting your family know you want to be a donor.
We know if someone is a registered organ and tissue donor, and their family knows this, they will say yes to donation almost every time.
Where someone isn’t registered and their family doesn’t know their wishes, this number is halved.
Despite 80 per cent of Australians supporting donation, currently only 36 per cent of Australians aged 16 plus are registered as organ and tissue donors. This means there are still around 13 million people who are able to register and give hope to the 1750 seriously ill patients on the waitlist.
Last year was a record-breaking year for registrations with around 350,000 people joining the Australian Organ Donor Register.
It’s never been quicker and easier to register as an organ and tissue donor.
It only takes one minute to register online at donatelife.gov.au, or just three taps in your Express Plus Medicare app.
If there is one thing you can do this DonateLife Week, it’s to please consider registering as an organ and tissue donor and talk to your family about it.
Ged Kearney is the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. DonateLife Week runs from July 24-31. Visit donatelife.gov.au to register