What You Need To Know About Organ Donation

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/

Image via lawprofessors.typepad.com

Weekend Wit: Kids Say The Darndest Things!

Kids come out with some classic comments. There’s very little social convention, growing brains are always ticking away and they say whatever comes to mind in raw honesty. Here’s a tiny snippet of what some kids have had to say.

Muddy proposal

A young family was on holiday, trekking across the countryside. The mother was heavily pregnant and it was a staggering 40 degrees outside the car and not much cooler within it. Nearing closer to the Murray River, the mother stated, “When we get to the river, I’m going in.” The small voice from the back seat was shocked at the mother’s proposal, “You can’t go in that yucky muddy river, mummy. What if the baby gets borned and can’t find its way to the top?” Apparently, she was very concerned the baby would somehow slip out of her mother whilst in the muddy water and be unable to swim their way to the surface!

Speaking bluntly

Taking the kids to the hairdressers can be a challenge. On one occasion, a young child sat down in the salon chair and the hairdresser began to cut. After a few moments, the young person looked sternly into the mirror, announcing: “You do know your scissors are blunt, don’t you?” Astounded at what had been said, the hairdresser looked down at the scissors and, sure enough, they were!

20 what?

There was an Aussie kid at school learning about coins and currency for the first time. The teacher held up a 20-cent piece and asked the class what it was. “20!” exclaimed a young boy. “20 what?” asked the teacher, expecting to hear the word ‘cents’ as she had for many years prior. “Platypuses!” answered the child proudly. The teacher was totally taken aback and, during her lunch break, told the entire staff room about her precious pupil. From that day forth, each time the teacher saw a 20-cent piece, she thought of those 20 ‘platypuses’, lovingly named because of the image on the coin.

Girl in boys clothes?

A mother was preparing dinner in an adjoining kitchen when her child, who was watching Ellen, announced, “She dresses like a boy.” “She does,” said mum. Several years later, in the same situation, the child stated, “Did you know Ellen is a lesbian, mum? I always wondered why she dressed like a boy.” Apparently, it had taken all that time, to process a conclusion.


The parents of a young boy were sitting watching TV while their 10-year-old had a shower. Wrapped waist-height in a towel, the young man walked into the room and announced to them, “I’m puberty! I’ve got a hair on my old fella!” He had the concept right, but his way of describing his remarkable discovery was priceless.

Image via teachingintheearlyyears.com

The Story of Us: Talking to Your Children about Adoption

It was not that long ago adoption was an act of family building shrouded in secrecy. The truth about a child’s origins often remained locked away with other skeletons, only ever being revealed in unintentional and traumatic ways. A shift has occurred in recent decades however, resulting from a better understanding of the psyche of an adopted child.

A 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents in the United States found that today, 99 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older are aware of their adoption status. It has become extremely rare for parents to keep the details of an adoption from children as they grow. The secrecy is gone, replaced now by the question of when and how to tell.

Make the Truth a Part of Your Family Narrative

Adoption does not have to become a taboo subject. If you tell your child’s adoption story just as you would have told the story of their birth, they will grow to understand it simply as part of who they are. Making the subject commonplace within your home and always remaining open to questions will help your child to feel a sense of security surrounding their place within your family. Leave the conversation open, and revisit it whenever there seems to be a need to do so. When those outside your family ask questions, answer them; allowing your child to see you embracing the truth, instead of hiding from it.

Keep the conversation age appropriate

Experts recommend talking to your children about adoption starting as early as infancy. There are several children’s books on the subject you can incorporate into the nightly bedtime routine, helping your children to grow with the knowledge that they are adopted from an early age. Keep your conversations on the subject age appropriate, and allow your children’s questions to guide any additional information you may choose to share. As your children age, their curiosity and capacity for understanding will also increase. They may recognize other examples of adoption in the world, or through television and movies, which can lead to more questions as they seek a better understanding of who they are. Continuing an open dialogue will ensure they come to you as they are ready and willing to learn more.

Integrate Information about Their Birth Family

A long term adoption study which began in the 1980’s revealed many of the benefits of open adoption. Children who had contact with their birth parents were shown to report the highest level of satisfaction with their adoption arrangements, and low levels of confusion surrounding parental roles. Even when contact is not a possibility though, sharing as much information as you can about your child’s birth origins will help them to maintain a more established sense of self.

Share Your Struggles

Adoption is not the standard path to parenthood, and is often fraught with many additional hurdles along the way. It is also not uncommon for adoptive parents to have first faced years of infertility and loss prior to turning towards adoption. As your children grow older, these are stories which you should be proud to share with them. Not only will they hear how truly wanted they were, but they will also learn perseverance and strength from fully understanding the example their parents have set.

Learning about adoption can be a badge of honour for children wear, growing up with the knowledge that they were chosen and wanted before they ever even came to be. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about how you built your family, remembering that it is as much a part of their story as it is yours. Create an open and honest dialogue, and watch as they flourish in that complete understanding of who they are.

Leah Campbell is the author of Single Infertile Female: Adventures in Love, Life and Infertility and blogs at Single Infertile Female.