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Australians urged to make their decision count

Donor recipients Steve Kinson and Lyn Alexander with Organ Donation Specialist Larna Kennedy, promoting Donate/ Life Week 2017.

DONATELIFE Week 2017 ends this Sunday 6 August but it is never too late to join the Australian Organ Donor Register and potentially give someone the gift of life. Lyn Alexander was given that second chance in late 2015 through a single lung transplant.

Practically bed-ridden and unable to do simple tasks such as bathing herself, Lyn’s lung function was down to 20% prior to her life-saving operation.

“Everything was such an effort – things that you j take for granted like trying to brush your teeth, taking so long to eat. I was tired all the time, short of breath – it was horrible,” she said. Lyn waited 8 months for her transplant but almost immediately her quality of life picked up. “Since then it’s been wonderful, back to normal, I’ve had no setbacks at all,” she said.

“I was only 2 days in ICU (intensive care), a fortnight in hospital, all up, 3 months in rehab with intense working out in the gym, education sessions, regular blood tests and that type of thing.” Because she was not very mobile Lyn’s muscles had wasted away and she was lucky to weigh 40kg. Larna Kennedy, Organ Donation Specialist at Ballarat Health Services, said Lyn is rare in getting a single lung transplant as most people get a double lung. Lyn explained, “I only received a single lung because I was small, they told me once I went onto the list I would have a long wait because of my size. I was just getting sicker and sicker and towards the finish they said the only way it will be faster for you is if a match comes up in your blood and tissues, they would give me one big single lung and that’s what’s happened. My right lung is still in there but that is just there for the ride.” “My condition was what they call a Pulmonary Fibrosis and they still don’t know what caused it. I have donated my left lung for research and they are still using it.”

Lyn’s transplant was performed at the Alfred Hospital, a place she still visits monthly for regular checks.

She will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life. But there are no complaints from Lyn.

She tries to find the words to describe how grateful she is to the donor and their family but the exact words are hard to find.

How do you thank someone for your life? “I did write a thank you letter, which the hospital passed on,” Lyn said. “This is such a wonderful gift. How many people get the second chance and we would die.”

Lyn now spends time promoting organ donation, saying, “I just want to give back.”

Ms Kennedy adds that there are many people in Ballarat who are avid supporters of DonateLife.

“Most of them are promoting Donate/Life because they have had transplants or are donor family members themselves; they have a real personal connection,” she said.

“I think people are willing to donate their organs, they think it’s a good thing to do, it’s just getting around to actually signing up and joining the register. “It’s very simple to join now, simply go to donatelife.gov. au – it takes less than a minute to register.” It is important for those who register as donors to let their loved ones know of their wishes.

“We still always have a conversation with the family about the potential for donation whether their loved has registered or not,” Ms Kennedy explained. “9 out 10 families will uphold that wish if they know of it, so it’s important that those who have registered to have that conversation with family and loved ones.” “I shall be forever grateful to the donor and family,” Lyn said.

“It has given me a second chance at life and to be given that second chance, you just value every day.”