"Thank you for your family member who has sadly passed away and donated their kidney to my father. I was really nervous to see him after the operation but I was surprised to see him looking really well. Dad is very happy he is not doing dialysis every day anymore. I think he might live longer now. We would like to meet you one day if you have time. So thank you very much and hopefully we can meet you soon."
This is a note that was written by a very relieved 10-year-old child, to the family of the anonymous donor who last week saved his father's life.
How do I know this? Because that 10-year-old is my son. And the recipient is my ex-husband.
Whilst I remain rather ambivalent about the situation (joking!), my son has been waiting for this for a long time. He's been forced to watch his dad suffer a slow but significant deterioration for years, and it's been a cacophony of emotions for him -- and for me, to witness my young child endure it.
My ex is an eternal optimist about his health, which is great, but it's meant that it's been largely left to me to explain the realities to my son. How kidney-matching works. How people need to agree to making a donation. What to expect to see on the first post-op visit; the tubes, the hospital gown and gloves he needs to wear so he doesn't make his dad ill.
All the parents out there who are unwell and have had to explain things to their kids know exactly what I mean. They know all the bedtime chats, the 'Do you think dad will die?' questions that come seemingly out of nowhere, standing at the supermarket check-out, for example, that show you your child is always worried.
And then, one day, you get the call that gives you all hope.
I want everyone to know that when you donate an organ, you are not just changing the life of the recipient, you are also changing the life of their family.
I've included this excerpt from my son's letter with his permission, because he wants everyone to know that 'kidney transplants are like a miracle I didn't think would ever happen'. And I want everyone to know that when you donate an organ, you are not just changing the life of the recipient, you are also changing the life of their family.
Donate Life Week 2017 is Sunday 30th July - Sunday 6th August, and there is no better time than now to think about organ donation in general, and registering on the Australian Donor Organ Register.
The Organ and Tissue Authority estimates that there are approximately 1400 Australians currently on organ transplant waiting lists, but that only 33 percent of the population are registered donors.
The Clinical Director of Kidney Health Australia, Dr Shilpa Jesudason, explains that everyone needs to consider the possibility that they, or a loved one, may one day need a life-saving donation, especially because transplants can occur for number of organs, to address several diseases.
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One human body can donate its heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, stem cells and corneas, to save a life, or dramatically change the life of someone who is suffering from, for example, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, hepatitis and liver disease. Last year in Australia, 1713 people received life-saving transplants, and some of these were from live donors, too.
Dr Jesudason knows that it's a fear among some people that doctors could turn off life support to harvest a patient's organs, but assures us that in Australia, organ donation is a highly-regulated process, and all healthcare professionals are legally and ethically committed to saving the life of a patient before organ donation is even considered.
Even after registration, a next of kin is inherently involved in the decision-making process, and a donation won't proceed without their approval. Dr Jesudason says that in practice, though, they almost always consent, because they know they are honouring their loved one's wishes, and they are comforted by helping others in their time of grief.
So, if you have been thinking about registering on the ADOR, this is the week to do it.
And you never know -- one day you could save the life of someone who has a child whose life you'll also 'save' -- like my son's.Suggest a correction