Let your final act of charity save a life

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

With the end of August fast approaching, community members are reminded that August is National Organ Donor Awareness Month.

To learn more about organ donation, the NEWS met with Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) volunteer and family member of an organ recipient Jackie Allen.

The Eastleigh resident has been involved in promoting awareness for ODF since 2016 after her husband, Steve, fell ill and needed a liver transplant.

Jackie took up the challenge to create greater awareness after she was challenged by her husband’s doctor. She works with her sister and Croydon resident Julie Reilly-Day.

Steve contracted a virus which severely affected his liver several years ago while working in the Middle East. It is believed he contracted the virus after consuming food or liquids which had not been prepared properly. Steve said after contracting the virus, his liver deteriorated over several months.

His condition deteriorated to the point he fell into a coma for five days and had to stay in the hospital for a month. Steve said once on the transplant list, he was informed of a potential match; however, after tests were conducted it was determined the liver wasn’t viable.

Three weeks later Steve was informed of another potential match and was prepared for the surgery. He said various medical professionals from social workers to the surgeons made sure he understood everything and had a solid transplant education.

Jackie highlighted that organ recipients are ranked by a model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score. She said the score determines who needs the organ the most and who is the most stable to receive it. “Going into the operation, the doctors make sure you understand everything is a 50/50 chance,” said Steve. “It is a major surgery and I was very fortunate that mine was a success.”

After receiving the liver, Steve spent a few months in and out of the hospital to treat internal bleeding, a hernia and for a bile duct reconstruction. He said he was opened up for times on the original cut for his transplant.

“It is difficult to grasp the idea that I am still alive, but the person whose liver I have is not. Basically, I shouldn’t be alive,” said Steve. Since the operation, Steve was able to watch his two granddaughters grow up and spend time with his family. “When Steve was preparing for the operation, he was informed he was going to be a grandfather, so that gave him something to fight for,” explained Jackie.

Steve explained after the operation his perspective on life changed. “When I die my body will go to medicine and I just hope to pay the good deed forward.” Jackie said although the information about donors or recipients is kept confidential in SA, the Allens wrote a letter to the family of the donor and gave it to the transplant clinic to give to the family. She said each year the family lights a candle and has mass to thank the donor.

To generate awareness about ODF, Jackie and her sister will host educational talks, events and share as much information as possible.

“We try to create awareness and get as many people to sign up as possible to save more lives,” she said. She said about 80 per cent of the people she has spoken to over the years are open to the idea of being an organ donor. “For many, it isn’t easy to talk about your death and in some cases, there are religious or cultural reasons why someone may not want to be an organ donor, but we still respect their views.”

To register as a volunteer or to sign up as an organ donor, visit the ODF website or Facebook page. Alternatively, send an email to Jackie at jackieanneallen@gmail.com

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