Australia has one of the best post-transplant results in the world, but one of the worst donation rates. What does this mean? At any given time, there are around 1500 people on the list waiting for a transplant. Some don't receive them in time.
I am passionate about organ and tissue donation because I was a part of that statistic. I needed a double lung transplant at the age of 19, due to the genetic disease Cystic Fibrosis. I was put on the transplant list with less than 12 months to live -- my doctor told me I could be waiting up to two years for a donation.
The donation crisis means there aren't enough people saying yes to donation. Not enough Australians are having the conversation about what's to be done with their organs and tissue and if they're to be donated when they die.
My lungs quickly deteriorated while I waited on the list, with each day nearing me towards suffocation and my body breaking me with pain. My quality of life was reduced to an always-present oxygen tube, a wheelchair and a bed. I became acutely aware of fatalities on the news and hated myself for it. I didn't want anyone to die, but if they did, I hoped they said yes to being a donor because I didn't want to die either. With less than two weeks to live I received the call -- there was a donor and I went into my life-saving surgery.
There is more than one system for organ and tissue donation around the world. Some use an opt-out way of doing it, where everyone is a donor unless they or their family state otherwise. Others, such as Australia, prefer the opt-in system; no one is a donor unless a next of kin chooses otherwise.
My transplant allowed me to live an amazing life. Fulfilling dreams of walking, working, studying and meeting new people every day. It also meant I had to witness many young friends die because an organ did not come in time for them. It made me ask, how come I got a second chance at life?
Not telling your loved ones about your decision to donate your organs and tissue puts them in a very uneasy position. If you die, they are the ones that must make the decision on your behalf and in times of shock and grief the saying "if in doubt, say no" usually wins over. So why not remove any doubt with a conversation?
HOW TO BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR IN AUSTRALIA
1. Register as an organ and tissue donor here. You will need your medicare details.
2. Talk to your family about organ donation, as they will be required to confirm, upon your death, that you hadn't changed your mind since you registered.
Even if you have previously recorded your choice to become a donor, such as on your driver license, you are still required to register on the Donor Register.
More information about becoming an organ donor here.
Organ donation is an effective treatment, but it's not a cure. At the age of 24, my body rejected my lungs. Treatment stabilised the situation but left me with less than 30 percent lung capacity, once again changing my quality of life. It was during this time I created the not-for-profit 'Gifted Life' to support the emotional journey of transplant recipients while raising awareness for organ and tissue donation in the hope of reducing the number of friends' funerals.
I feel an overwhelming gratitude that someone treasured life so much that they decided to gift it to me, to treasure what they no longer could. Talking about organ and tissue donation isn't taboo. For me it brings life to tragic circumstances; one donor can save up to 10 lives and improve the quality of life for many more. I've experienced the overwhelming love and joy organ donation can bring to a whole community. I implore you to talk about what seems like at times an invisible issue.
I get it. Talking about your own potential death or that of your loved ones is not a nice thing to do but hey, the only thing we know for certain is death and taxes so how about we just be a little prepared.