POLL: Donating organs to save lives

A CHANCE conversation with her husband two months before his sudden death helped Rachel Croft the day she had to   decide to donate his organs.

The couple had been discussing a recently deceased acquaintance and organ donation when Damien, who was a donor on his driver’s licence, said: ‘‘They’re no good to you when you’re dead’’.

Damien, 47,  had an anaphylactic reaction to an insect bite while driving a truck on the F3 in March, 2011.

The stepfather of two ended up in John Hunter Hospital on life support but without brain function, a rare situation in which organs are viable, and Ms Croft agreed to donate his organs.

Mr Croft’s family did not agree and it has hurt Rachel’s relationship with them since.

That is why Ms Croft, of Bonnells Bay, said it was important for people to discuss their wishes.

‘‘If it hadn’t been for that conversation I’m not sure I could have made the decision,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s not about just speaking to your spouse, people need to let their family know.’’

Ms Croft is among those encouraging people to talk with their families for Donate Life Week.

John Hunter Organ and Tissue Donation Service staff members will be at Gloria Jeans outlets this week to encourage people to have a ‘‘conversation over a cuppa’’.

With his death Damien Croft saved four lives through the donation of his liver, kidneys and pancreas and two of his heart valves are held in stasis.

‘‘I think it’s great that there’s four families out there that didn’t have to bury their loved ones,’’ Ms Croft said.

‘‘It was the right thing to do but it’s not an easy thing to do.’’

Organs are only viable for transplant in a unique set of circumstances, yet despite this, only about one in two families in the situation agree to donation.

Among the lucky ones was Graeme Martyn, of Charlestown, who received a heart transplant in 2000.

Now 62, Mr Martyn had a major heart attack at age 31 that rendered his heart useless by age 50.

He was being kept alive by an electronic device for months before a heart became available.

‘‘It’s scary to think you’ve got to wait for someone to die to get a second chance in life,’’ he said.  ‘‘I don’t know how you can thank someone for such a gift.’’

The transplant has allowed the father-of-two to watch his four grandchildren grow,  climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, complete the City to Surf and  become a grey nomad.

‘‘I just feel extremely lucky.’’

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