the reality of organ donation

Being an organ transplant recipient is not for the faint-hearted. It takes commitment, psychological strength, support from family, friends and potential recipients are carefully selected to ensure the best chance of survival for every donation.

Tragically, some potential recipients wait patiently for years for a phone call that never comes. For others who are blessed to receive that call, they can be turned away because they aren’t the right match for the available organ. The organ donation and potential recipient must be completely compatible  for a donation to proceed. Plus, recipients need to keep themselves healthy enough to have surgery at a moments notice. Even the strongest of people can become isolated, frustrated, depressed and feel like giving up.

While on waiting lists, quality of life begins to decline as many are hooked up to machines and/or taking copious amounts of medication just to stay alive. It’s an enormously difficult way to live and in reality it can happen to anyone.

After an extensive operation to undergo the transplant there is so much which can go wrong. When a foreign object of any description enters your body it naturally attempts to repeal it any way it can. Think of how hard the body works to rid itself of a simple splinter? Now image a double lung transplant, a heart or set of kidneys! It’s a scary and exciting time for the individual and their loved ones.

To reduce the bodies natural tendencies to rid itself of the donated organ(s), the recovery period is a time when recipients must strictly obey all guidelines by medical specialists. This includes physiotherapists, dieticians, transplant surgeons and nurses. They also have access to support workers. Everything from the food they eat, their medication regime, their activities and behaviors, who they can have contact with and where they can go is all carefully monitored.

Then there’s the emotional side of a transplant. Children are exceptionally resilient, but once the limitation they had  experienced are removed, it can be difficult for parents to hold them back while they recover. Plus, recipients grow accustomed to lugging around life saving apparatus or being hooked up to machines, like oxygen tanks or dialysis machines.

After the transplant, these are all removed and are no longer a significant part of their life. They can often feel exceptionally vulnerable without their life support which has literally kept them alive. It’s understandable that the first few months can be very strange and some people experience a significant amount of anxiety.

Also, people with deteriorating health often start to plan for the decline of their health and lifespan. Hope can be difficult to sustain for prolonged periods of time. Plus some take on the fact that someone needed to die, so they could have their organs to survive. Psychologically, recipients have enormous adjustments to make throughout the entire experience.

A transplant significantly changes the lives of the recipient and alters the life of those around them. For adults with partners, they can look forward to a new, exciting, fun filled life together. All their plans can turn into realities and the dynamics of the relationship can shift. After the recovery period, recipients no longer require assistance and the partner is  no longer required to be a carer. This is yet another adjustment they need to make together to move forward.

Then there’s the family. Relatives of recipients often take on a caring role and need to cease employment until after the recovery period. The recovery period is around 12 months, with the first 3 months being the most nerve wrecking and significant. Sometimes they might feel like their lives are on hold while everyone waits.

Receiving an organ donation is therefore the ultimate gift a person can give. It stretches much further than the individual recipient and has the capacity to change a great many lives. Australian authorities have provided funds, training, staff, facilities, strict selection criteria to ensure each precious donation has the best chance to save the life of another and make the greatest impact possible.

Finally, if you register as a donor, you need to discuss it with your family. They will have the final say, regardless of your registration status and must consent to the donation. Make the next family gathering your opportunity to discuss this life saving opportunity, so your wishes can be realized if you become a potential donor.

If you want more information on organ donation, head to

Image via