Right now there are thousands of Australians waiting for organ transplants that could save their lives -- and every week, some die waiting. It doesn’t have to be this way.
In 2008 a major reform package was announced by the federal government, yet we continue to have one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world. The way the reform is being managed currently means the system just isn’t capable of increasing donation rates, and as long as there is little action, people will still be dying needlessly. We must show that this is unacceptable. All parties across government have a vital role to play in driving change that we urgently need, and they need to take the first step. That’s why I’m calling on all parties to help save more lives, by increasing targets to at least 30 donors per million people by 2016. It’s well within our reach -- and it will double the number of lives being saved every year. Please help tell politicians that Australians deserve the best chance possible, and sign the petition.
This is why:
Our son, Ben was born in 1982. We counted our blessings. Our little family was growing and life was great. When he was a baby he needed a couple of operations and had fought through them and grown to be a happy, energetic, wonderful little boy. In 1993, at the age of ten we found that Ben needed an operation to address a curve in his spine. On the day before the operation, I stood in our driveway as my wife, Elayne left for the Children's Hospital with Ben in our station wagon yelling "Bye Dad." That was the last time I saw him awake.
After the surgery I went to the hospital. As I entered the waiting room I sensed something was wrong. "There's been a complication," Elayne said. As Ben lay in intensive care, I forced back the despair and tried to think positively. Everything will be alright, I told myself. After all, Ben was an old hand at medical emergencies. Life-support machines winked and beeped in the cardiac intensive care unit at the Children's Hospital, as I hunched over the bed, gazing numbly at the unconscious figure of my ten-year-old son. His body lay connected to a maze of tubes. A ten-centimetre-wide strip of plaster ran down his chest. As I had already done countless times that night in early Autumn, 1993, I vigorously massaged his hands and feet, trying to transfer some of my strength to him, willing him to keep going. "Come on Ben, you have to pull through," I thought. I was losing my son. I saw it in his eyes whenever the nurse cleaned them. There was nothing there - no sparkle, no life. It is not fair! My mind raged. I haven't taken him bush-walking, or camping in the mountains, or all the other things a father plans with his son as he grows older. The doctor took me aside. He had done everything possible, he gently explained, but the gauges indicated that Ben's brain was dying, although further tests would be needed to confirm this. Back in the ward, several nurses were crying. Ben died at the age of ten. We were heartbroken and devastated. One positive thing we were able to do was donate Ben’s organs, and save some other families from the grief we were experiencing.
My name is Graham Harrison. As a Donor parent, I have been a passionate advocate for organ donation in this country for almost twenty years. It is hard to put into words what it meant to me to give consent for my little boy's organs to be donated, how organ donation has help me move forward with my loss, how powerful such a gift can be and how important it is for the community at large to become personally involved with organ donation and transplantation. I think about Ben regularly. Doing everything I can to ensure Australia’s low rates of organ donation are dramatically improved is something that connects me to him, and reminds me of the joy and gratitude those who received his organs feel. I know that they also continue to think of him as the years go by.
There are thousands of people experiencing fear and sadness every day as they or their loved one hope for an organ transplant that could transform their lives. One in three people on the waiting list die each year. And those in need can end up waiting for many, many years. I think of the families and friends left behind and I see it as an obligation to do whatever I can to ensure Australians in need have as good a chance of receiving an organ transplant and living as those living in the 23 countries with higher rates than us. In 1989, just a few years before Ben died, the organ donor rate in both Australia and Spain was around 14 donors per million people. Since then we have fallen way back to 24th with a donor rate current of 14.9 dpm, while Spain embraced major reform and now leads the world with a donor rate of 35 donors per million people. Many other countries are now adopting similar systems and committing to change and showing that major reform is achievable. Although this forum is not appropriate, there is a great deal of documentation available to support such change within Australia.
My aim is for an Australian target of 30+ donors per million people, with bi-partisan commitment.
When achieved, twice as many Australians (2000) will be gaining a second chance at life each year. Australians must expect no less than a target of 30+ donors per million people. All parliamentarians responsible for health in our country must unite in recognising that Australia is way behind, and refuse to accept it. A target is the first step. Without a common goal we lack the drive to achieve real reform in the country. Join me to give many more the same wonderful gift, the same chance that Ben gave to others.
Graham Harrison started this petition with a single signature, and now has 2,202 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.