I wondered what it would be like if I just wasn’t around anymore.
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 http://www.donatelife.gov.au/
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Did you know that regardless of your registration status, each family of a potential organ or tissue donor must consent to the donation? Plus, not every donor gets to donate. There are exceptionally strict conditions which must be met to harvest organs. It’s marginally less for human tissue.
In 2013, only 1 per cent of potential candidates who died in hospital actually met the criteria. This left Australia with a mere 391 suitable organ donors for our entire population. With approximately 1500 Aussies queuing for an organ transplant at any given time, these figures indicate we desperately need more donors to save lives. Registration is reported to be rising at around 75 per cent of the population happy to donate, but we still need to do more.
The Australian Government Organ and Tissue Donation Authority, reported that only 69 per cent of registered donors have told their families of their potential donation. We really need that figure to rise. When potential donors became available in 2013, only 51 per cent of their family members knew what loved ones wants. Of these, the vast majority (94 per cent) of the families agreed to the donation. When the decision was left to family without knowing, the figure dropped substantially to 60 per cent.
Enough with the stats right? It’s enough to make your head spin. What these figures indicate is that it’s imperative for families to talk about organ donation. We often talk about a whole heap of other crap, like what Aunty Joan did at the last family party, but important stuff like this often gets avoided. In reality, if your family doesn’t know what you want, there is a significant chance they will decline the donation and your opportunity to save up to 10 lives will be sadly lost.
Lucky for us, Australia is a world leader in successful transplants. It’s not just about recruiting donors either. National, state and territory government’s have initiated ‘A World’s Best Practice Approach to Organ and Tissue Donation for Transplantation’ reform. The aim is to increase community engagement, awareness and registration rates, plus improve transplant success through stringent selection criteria and vital funding for medical professionals, post-donor care and facilities.
The federal government has allocated additional funds to secure dedicated specialists, like surgeons, nurses, hospital based transplant specialists and support service for both recipients and donor families. Donor families receive support regardless of their decision to donate or not. It will be a particularly difficult time and significant research has gone into providing the best outcome for both the donor family and individual organ recipients.
After a transplant, recipients receive assistance while they undergo 3 or more months of intensive recovery. For this time, recipients need consistent support as a mass of medications are introduced, including poisonous anti-rejection drugs. Recipients may experience potentially life-threatening side effects from medications and therefore potential recipients without 24/7 support for this period are ineligible for a transplant.
This may seem harsh, but the success of the transplant depends on the recovery period. With such a low availability of donors, specialists want to ensure only individuals with the best chance of survival receive these valuable organs. They are aware they may not be able to save everyone’s life so they must base their decision on these types of variables. It’s the ultimate gift of life and no-one wants it wasted.
Lastly, if you do decide to donate, be aware that your organs will be harvested with the utmost care and professionalism and your family will be thoroughly supported. If you’d like to know more about recipients of organ donors, we have an upcoming article, A day in the life of an organ transplant recipient. I’m blessed to have a family member who has recently an organ transplant and fully comprehend the precious gift which has been received.
It is a decision which changes far more than an individuals life and impacts everyone they associate with, including the wider community. Who knows, one day it might be you on the waiting list and someone’s donation just might save your life. Surely that’s worthy of a 5 minute family conversation?
If you want more information on organ donation, head to http://www.donatelife.gov.au/
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Have you been feeling a bit off and can’t put your finger on why? Sure, life is pretty hectic with everyone wanting to get ready for the silly season, but what if it’s more than that? For many people, the lead up to Christmas is a time when they experience grief without being consciously aware of it.
Unfortunately, grief is something we all experience and the realization of lost loved ones is most prominent when families gather at Christmas. For most, it will be due to the passing of a loved one. Tragically, for others it will be the devastation that a loved one is missing. Either way, there is a significant loss and Christmas time can surface emotions which are out of our control.
Regardless of the circumstances the first Christmas is always the most extreme. This is a time when grief is raw and emotions are fragile. It is a very personal experience, so some loved ones will grieve much longer and far more profound than others.
As the years pass by it can get a little easier, however, upon the lead up to Christmas some people aren’t aware of why they experience changes. This can also happen upon the lead up to birthdays and anniversaries. Individuals may get upset easily or feel lethargic, tired, irritated or depressed. It’s a strange phenomenon which happens to many people and is difficult for individuals to comprehend. All they know is that they feel bad, but can’t put an explanation on why.
Strangely, after these events pass, this feeling eases. However, it’s during this time that individuals may experience changes in their behavior. These include insomnia, changes in appetite, loss of desire, plus some may partake in erratic behavior like consuming too much alcohol, taking drugs or gambling.
It’s when routine behaviors shift, that they can indicate symptoms of much deeper issues. So if someone is sliding into altered or unhealthy behaviors, there is usually a reason why. Instead of focusing on the behavior, you need to look past them and acknowledge the underlying feelings and emotions that are causing them.
Once these are identified, the feelings and emotions can be addressed. In most cases, it’s grief rearing its ugly head. It’s an exceptionally uncomfortable emotion and people avoid it any way they can. Instead of avoiding grief, it is an emotion that is best tackled head on. The only way to do this is to acknowledge it for what it is. That may be easier said than done because there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are only healthy and unhealthy alternatives.
Below are some recommended healthy alternatives to survive times such as Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries, when grief mysteriously appears.
1. Acknowledge grief for what it is.
2. Put extra focus on maintaining your mental health.
3. Eat properly.
4. Avoid alcohol and drugs, including irregular prescription medications, like Valium.
5. Get extra exercise.
6. Know that it’s ok to cry.
7. Talk about your loss and the feelings associated with it.
8. Do things which make you feel good.
9. Avoid isolating yourself.
10. Ask for help if and when you need it.
Lastly, if you or someone you love is overwhelmed with grief, please seek medical assistance. There may be something else wrong, which is masking itself as grief, so if unsure, make an appointment with a GP so they can run tests and make referrals to specialists if required. Look after yourselves and your loved ones and comfort each other in times of need.
Image via preludetoamidlifecrisis.files.wordpress.com
The spread of the Ebola virus has a certain déjà vu about it. You may recall that the AIDS virus, which began in the 1980s, was hosted by monkeys which then spread to humans? Well, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola’s initial host was fruit bats, which spread to monkeys, apes and pigs. So this is all sounding pretty familiar, yeah?
Ebola was actually identified in 1976, preceding the AIDS virus. There have been epidemics in certain places in Africa ever since but, this time, Ebola has already killed 4500 people in West Africa and it is now hopping around the globe. There are people coming and going from international airports daily and travel isn’t going to stop, just because of Ebola. We all need to be extra careful of contamination – regardless of what country we live in.
Ebola transition is similar to AIDS; via bodily fluids, like blood. However, it is far more infectious because it can be transmitted via saliva and sweat as well. It’s not airborne as early reports suggested. Dr. Bruce Ribner, who cares for Ebola patients, being treated at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta said that even the skin of patients is potentially infectious. Therefore, Ebola is not only within the person, it also lies on their surface.
To stop the spread, germ control is essential. Regularly wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Ebola is first identified by a high fever, so if you see anyone who looks unwell and sweating due to a high fever, stay clear. If you are experiencing these symptoms, head directly to a GP. Many doctors surgeries around the country have signs which specify, anyone experiencing a high fever needs to tell staff immediately, so they can be isolated from other patients inside the clinics. It’s not a joke and we all need to be vigilant.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has updated guidelines for health workers, which are more specific than previous recommendations. This is after a health worker in the US contracted Ebola while caring for a patient. Previous guidelines were determined to be too confusing and health workers have been put at risk due to unsure practices.
From contagion to death takes only a matter of weeks, not years like AIDS. Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University’s school of public health and leader of the CDC’s task force on AIDS in the mid-1980s, said that unlike AIDS sufferers, who may not have any symptoms for years and unknowingly spread the disease, Ebola sufferers show symptoms quickly. This may be a key difference of the two viruses. Curran, went on the say that “It potentially gives us a way to break the back of the epidemic”.
This is excellent news. Unlike the wild spread of AIDS, which has occurred since the 1980s and taken millions of lives, Ebola – although far more deadly – maybe easier to eradicate. More good news is that unlike the AIDS virus, which was around for more than a decade before it was thoroughly understood and investigated, the WHO, CDC and government officials have learned that a fast response could potentially save millions. If the AIDS virus has taught them anything; they know they have to contain the spread of Ebola quickly before it gets completely out of control.
Image via http://www.news10.net/story/news/local/2014/08/19/kaiser-ebola-patient/14316293/