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Organ donation gives life

Lee-Anne Rice Mother of Sean (Child) who was the recipient of a double lung organ transplant

This July and August, Gold Coast Health is joining the race to encourage 100,000 more Australians to register as organ and tissue donors. 

While last year was a record-breaking year for new registrations with around 74,000 Queenslanders joining the Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR), there is clearly more to be done to lift registration rates during DonateLife Week (24 to 31 July). 

Around 29 per cent of Gold Coasters are registered to be organ and tissue donors, a figure below the national average of 36 per cent.  

Since the national program first began nearly 16,000 people have received a life-changing organ transplant. 

Lee-Anne Rice knows firsthand the profound impact of organ donation after her nine-year-old son, Sean, underwent a double lung transplant seven years ago.  A two-year agonising wait, and a terminal diagnosis at the age of seven saw him confined to a wheelchair, eating through a nasal gastric tube, and requiring oxygen.  

“Influenza landed Sean in hospital on life support. He was only hours away from having his life support turned off before a donor set of lungs became available.  

“We were airlifted to Melbourne to have an emergency transplant. I thought this was truly amazing but also sadness crept knowing another family was going through the worst day of their lives. It was the happiest day of my life, so it was very mixed emotions.  

“After his transplant, Sean had his challenges have to learn to eat without a tube, walk, and talk in sentences and he needed daily physiotherapy for months to improve his quality of life.” 

Lee-Anne says it’s important for families to openly discuss their wishes about organ donation and to register as a donor.   

“My son is now sixteen and a typical teenage boy; he is keen to get his license and he’s learning to surf on the weekends at Snapper Rocks, but he will need a new set of lungs in the future,” she said. 

“We are very grateful for the little things we could have missed out on like having family dinners, going to the beach, and spending time with Sean’s nan who is 92 years old.” 

Donation Specialist Nurse Coordinator Amanda Leitch said that with around 1,750 seriously ill people on Australia's organ transplant waitlist and another 13,000 people on dialysis who may benefit from a kidney transplant, the need to consider organ donation had never been greater.   

“Any Australian aged 16 and over can sign up online. It doesn't matter how old you are, your medical history, your lifestyle, what country you’re from or how healthy you are – you can still register as an organ and tissue donor,” she said. 

“We know the biggest barrier to families saying, ‘yes’ to donation is not knowing their family member wanted to be a donor,” Amanda said. 

As part of the Great Registration Race for DonateLife Week, we’re encouraging the Gold Coast community to join us in turning this around. 

Registering is easy - it only takes one minute at or just three taps in your Medicare app.  

Register as an organ and tissue donor here

Last updated 25 Jul 2022