Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service And DonateLife came together with the Bundaberg community recently to recognise and celebrate the life-giving gift of organ and tissue donation.
An Organ Donation Service of Remembrance was held at Shalom College on 19 November, bringing local donor families and transplant recipients together to celebrate the tremendous gift they have all been touched by.
Donor families wore red ribbons while recipients and their families wore green ribbons, WBHHS Organ Donation Clinical Nurse Consultant Karen Jenner advised.
“Despite wearing different coloured ribbons, and having different backgrounds and medical experiences, both recipients and donor families came together to recognise the selfless and lifesaving nature of organ and tissue donation,” Ms Jenner said.
“The aim of the service was to connect those touched by organ donation, raise awareness, and most importantly, to celebrate those who gave the most selfless gift possible and those whose lives have changed forever because of that precious gift.
“Organ donation is a truly special and compassionate act, enduring beyond the passing of an individual and providing life to another.”
Representatives from WBHHS, DonateLife as well as donor families and recipients spoke at the service, sharing information and stories about the impact and importance of organ and tissue donation.
Rhianna's story shared at service
Rhianna, a Bundaberg woman who received a double lung transplant in 2020, spoke at the service, speaking on behalf of organ recipients to express gratitude and to describe how humbling receiving an organ is for those in need.
“It is not always easy to express the gratitude you feel for the extra chance at life you’ve been given. But today is a day we can do this, to publicly thank our donor and their family for their selfless decision,” Rhianna said.
“I was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system.
“It shocks a lot of people when they see my scar or hear my story that someone so young would need a lifesaving organ transplant.
“But illness doesn’t discriminate; not against age, race or gender. This second chance at life, I can say with confidence, is one that we are all grateful for, regardless of age.
Rihanna said a few months ago, she received a letter from her donor’s family.
“Her daughter wrote to me, telling me how full of life her mum was, and how she was loved by all,” she said.
“Her death was unexpected and shocked the family, yet in that time of grief and sadness, her family honoured her wishes around what she wanted to happen when she was no longer able to keep living her life herself.
“It took me a while to work out what to say back, but I was able to write a letter in response last week.
“You would think it would be easy – just two little words. But is so much more than that; so much more than a simple thank you.
“In the two years since my transplant, my life has changed so much because of the selfless act of my donor and her family having the strength to honour her wishes. I own my own home, I run my own business, because of her.
“So thank you, to everyone who has had to make the tough decision of donating your loved one’s organs. And thank you to those who have received that gift, for cherishing and honouring it by living your life to the fullest.”
Organ donation saves lives
As Rhianna stated, life threatening conditions and illness can happen to anyone and registered organ and tissue donors can be the last chance for significantly unwell people to overcome their condition and extend their lives.
“Anyone over the age of 16 can register their intent to donate their organs,” Ms Jenner said.
“From the age of 18, people can register to donate their organs and tissue, only taking 60 seconds and Medicare card information.
“It’s important to talk to your family about your decision to ensure they understand your wishes and can uphold them should the opportunity arise to help others through organ and tissue donation.
“One person who donates their organs and tissue has the potential to save up to seven people.
“It truly is an enduring legacy and this Service of Remembrance offers a time and space where we can gather all families together, both donor and recipient families, who are touched by organ donation to celebrate the amazing gift of life.”
To find out more about organ donation or to register as a donor, visit www.donatelife.gov.au