The annual Terry Connolly Organ-ised Walk around Lake Burley Griffin has been renamed The DonateLife Walk, and organisers expect it to attract even more than the 1600 participants who attended last year.
Gift of Life president David O’Leary says the re-badging would help tie the event into the Federal Government’s awareness campaign, “DonateLife”.
DonateLife Week runs from February 20-27 and the walk will take place at 7am at Regatta Point on Wednesday, February 23.
According to Mr O’Leary, who received a liver transplant 20 years ago after contracting hepatitis on an overseas posting, 2010 saw a surge in organ donation across the country with 309 multi-organ donors helping to save many lives. This was up from 247 multi-organ donors in 2009.
“This is a good sign. To go from 247 to 309 shows there’s definite improvement; but the overall figure is that there’s around 1700 Australians waiting for organ donation each year,” he says.
Almost 55,000 ACT residents are on the register, and in 2010 a record 10 multi-organ donors helped 32 recipients in the Territory (not including the southern area health service of NSW).
David stressed the importance of not just deciding to register as an organ donor, but also talking to family about the decision, as family members can override a person’s choice to become an organ donor if they die under circumstances which make it possible.
“Registration in itself isn’t enough. This is what people have done in the past, but not discussed it with their families.
“In Australia, the legislation is, at the end of the day, that if anyone is placed in that situation familial consent is required. Doctors won’t proceed without seeking it. So a major plank of the national campaign is having that discussion so your family knows your wishes.”
He describes his own transplant as “an absolute miracle: I was extremely lucky to get a match in such a short space of time. Of course, some people don’t receive one in time.”
When Glenys Cody, of Calwell, lost her 14-year-old son Angus in 2008, the fact that he had saved the lives of others through organ donation helped her cope.
“It didn’t remove the tragedy, but it did give us the silver lining that kept us going – that Angus was able to help other people’s families,” she said.
“For us, organ donation has been the silver lining around the tragedy.
“His lungs went to a girl who was 19 at the time, she had a double lung transplant. His kidneys went to two separate middle-aged men, and his heart valve was able to be stored separately and used afterwards.”
Glenys had previously talked to her sons, Angus, Lachlan and Hayden, about her own wish to have her organs donated if anything happened to her, and over a long discussion all the family members had agreed that they felt the same way.
“I wanted my organs to be used to help somebody else if they could. And when Angus’ situation arose there was no question of whether it was what he wanted, and that made it easier. I knew it was his wish.
“A lot of people asked me, in the hospital, how I dealt with it. I said: ‘When you’re looking at your child lying there and you know he’s not going to survive, and then you think about it being your child being there because they couldn’t get a donated organ… how can you not make the decision to donate?’ You put the shoe on the other foot.
“He had so much life in him, he pushed every boundary there was to push and he loved life – he couldn’t get enough of it. But we all know it’s going to happen to all of us: We’re born, we die and we pay taxes. And you don’t need your organs any more once you’ve passed.”
For more information or to register for the walk, visit Gift of Life.