OPINION | Attitudes must change in order to save lives

WORTH IT: A photo I snapped of my friend, Lauren Rowe, in Camden’s Macarthur Park. The sheer joy belies the harsh truth of her ill-health and long hospital stays. “I like to laugh every day and it’s something I’ll never take for granted.”
WORTH IT: A photo I snapped of my friend, Lauren Rowe, in Camden’s Macarthur Park. The sheer joy belies the harsh truth of her ill-health and long hospital stays. “I like to laugh every day and it’s something I’ll never take for granted.”

When we die should our life savings be withdrawn from the bank and placed in the coffin with us?

No. That attitude went out with the pharaohs.

Most people agree that a monetary inheritance would be far better used helping the living, not rotting in a hole in the ground or being reduced to ash at a crematorium.

It simply makes sense.

But why is a dead person’s money treated with more importance than their organs?

Every day, people go into a coffin with kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts and other body parts that could be saving many lives and families.

That makes no sense.

So, a growing number of us are signing up to the Australian Organ Donor Register (register.donatelife.gov.au/decide). We’re also making our views very clear to our kin – because sometimes grieving families refuse consent and overrule the dead person’s wishes.

Taking a photo of yourself with a #soyouknow sign (available at www.giftedlife.org.au) and posting it on social media is another way to make it clear.

Look, I understand that death is a very personal and traumatic issue…we’ve all lost loved ones…but the older I get, the more blunt in my own opinions I perhaps get.

The body is just a shell – it holds our bits in.

When I kick the bucket, the doctors can take whatever they need. Because, I dunno about you, but I’d be pretty happy if the final item on my ‘bucket list’ was to help someone else to achieve their own bucket list. 

Around 1400 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists at any time, yet one or two Aussies on that list die every week because an organ is not available in time.

Why is a dead person’s money more important than their organs?

That statistic has turned me into a firm supporter of changing the system to an “opt-out”, instead of the present system of people having to “opt in” as an organ donor. I’m not holding my breathe for that to happen anytime soon, despite the statistics.

But people, of course, are not statistics.

Many of us in the Macarthur region are mates with Lauren Rowe of Raby, one of the most beautiful souls, the founder of the Gifted Life charity and a cystic fibrosis advocate. She was literally days from death at the age of 19 when she received a life-saving lung transplant.

“A kind stranger saved my life through donating their lungs when I was dying at 19,” Lauren told us. 

“He gave me eight more years to hug my parents, to fall in love, to cry in moments of heart break but to also laugh hysterically in times of joy. He gave me eight more years to live.”

Reality TV twits and celebrity brats often dominate our news cycles, and we lose sight of the fact that good people who contribute to their community are suffering and dying unnecessarily. Just one donor can save up to 10 lives!

The gift of Lauren Rowe’s presence has not only enhanced the lives of her family and friends, and Macarthur, but unlike so many of us who too often take things for granted I suspect she has learned to appreciate every extra minute.

Particularly now, at 27, as there are fears her body will soon reject her transplanted lungs and need another set. And in a modern bountiful nation like this she can only wonder if she ever will ever get them, a giant ticking clock above her head.

That’s bullshit.

Please, please, think about this topic. Or go to giftedlife.org.au where Lauren answers FAQs. She also has her YouTube channel with a tagline ‘You’re not alone’.

We all need to join forces to make sure that's true.

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ONE LIFE LOST CAN SAVE SO MANY

ANOTHER well-known local identity who knows all too well the power of organ donation is Debbie Roberts. Not as a recipient of life...but as a giver.

Her daughter, Rebecca Park, suffered a fatal heart attack at age 20 in 2002 [due to Type 1 Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism].

But in the midst of that tragedy, Debbie was not surprised about Rebecca’s wish to be an organ donor.

Her daughter had lived a full life, had just become engaged to the man of her dreams and enrolled in TAFE, and was excited that her future seemed so bright. Until it went dark.

“During her many admissions into hospital we would spend a lot of time talking about what she wanted if she should die,” Debbie told me.

Two kidneys and two corneas were able to be donated. “For our family it gave us much comfort to know that in her death, an opportunity for a better life was given to four other people.”

Debbie later received a letter from one of the kidney recipients – a single dad of two children. His children were so happy that daddy could still play with them, take them to sport and have more fun.

Debbie and Lauren Rowe have now become good mates and part of each other’s stories.

“While my daughter Rebecca is no longer with us, her organs and her story continue to make a difference to many.”

There are few greater gifts.