Three of Maree Walker’s family members are alive thanks to complete strangers
Her daughter, brother-in-law and grandson have all been recipients of donated organs while facing life-threatening conditions.
Having seen three people’s lives transformed by a transplant has reinforced Mrs Walker’s strong support for organ donation.
But she thinks many Australians are misinformed about the reality of organ and tissue donation which may be the cause of low donation rates.
Mrs Walker belongs to a Bendigo group of those affected by organ donation, whether as recipients or family members. The group wants to see more people understand the transplant process and sign up as donors.
Her brother in law Russell Todd was first to receive an organ. Mr Todd had a double lung transport more than ten years ago.
Then, her grandson Jack Atkins-Walker had a kidney transplant. Born with organs outside his body, he was a palliative care patient for much of his early life.
But when he was 18 months old, the doctors realised he probably wasn’t going anywhere.
So, to restore function to his kidneys, he received a transplant aged 20 months. Now seven years old, Jack’s health is far from perfect, but he’s able to attend school.
Two years ago Mrs Walker’s daughter Louise Street asked for a lift to hospital. She was unable to walk, and just kept getting sicker and sicker.
You live on such tenterhooks waiting. It really is life and death. You hope for the best, but you fear the worst.Maree Walker
Just three days later, Ms Street was told she needed an organ transplant. Three weeks later, she received a new liver.
“She’s got a young son who’s now 13. If it wasn’t for that, he’d have been an orphan,” Mrs Walker said.
Seeing these people live has given Mrs Walker an appreciation of the importance of organ donation.
“You live on such tenterhooks waiting. It really is life and death. You hope for the best, but you fear the worst,” Mrs Walker said.
“Then to see them progress afterwards, and improve and get healthier, and to have this attachment to someone they don’t know, is really amazing.”
To help people understand organ donation, the group has organised for documentary Dying to Live to screen in Bendigo.
The documentary explores the experience of people who have been touched by organ and tissue transplant.
Group member Penny Davies said the film had the power to dispel some of the myths around organ donation.
“Every day there are people who for one reason or the other need a transplant,” Dr Davies said.
“You are more likely to need a transplant than to ever be donor.”
Penny Davies at 0417 530 069.
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