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Making a Life-Saving Choice

By Nicola Smith on August 27, 2020 in News

A new lease on life. Photo: James Hutton

After receiving a heart transplant last year, Bronte local Patrick Lucas wants to start the conversation about the life-saving choice to donate organs.
Mr Lucas received a heart transplant after he was diagnosed with heart failure in April 2018 when doctors found that he had cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscles that prevents the heart from pumping blood efficiently.
When medical therapy was unsuccessful, Mr Lucas was fitted for two ventricular assisted devices and went through eight weeks of rehabilitation at St Vincent’s Hospital.
“I didn’t realise it until after, but I was getting super amazing special attention,” Mr Lucas told The Beast.
“I had 24-hour access to the nurse who’s the expert, I was seeing the specialist all the time, and they made sure I was getting lots of tests.”
Mr Lucas spent ten months on the waiting list for a new heart before getting a call at 5am with the news that there was a heart waiting for him.
Mr Lucas’ partner, Donna Peachman, remembers the experience as one that brought them closer together.
“You say, ‘In sickness and in health’, and you don’t realise that it’s going to happen so soon, but there was no question that we were just going to do it and get through it together,” she said.
Unlike other countries, Australia has an opt-in (rather than an opt-out) process for organ donation, meaning that there is a waiting list as well as a smaller pool of options from which to find a match.
Ms Peachman believes that the opt-in policy means there needs to be more conversation about organ donation in Australia.
“There needs to be more awareness around it. When Patrick was waiting for his heart, people were like, ‘Tell me what we can do for you’, and Patrick would say, ‘Well, you can sign up to be an organ donor’,” Ms Peachman explained.
Donate Life Week, which recently ran from July 26 to August 2, is an annual event aimed at getting more Australians to opt-in to being organ donors by filling out a quick form online and having a conversation with their family.
The donor register isn’t only important for organ donations, but also donations of tissues and skin. During the 2019/20 bushfire season, tissue donations were critical to treating the burns of people caught in the fires.
Ms Peachman realised how little she knew about organ donation when her husband became sick.
“I wasn’t a donor before Patrick was unwell, and neither was Patrick. We just assumed it was on our drivers’ licence, but that was phased out ten years ago now,” she told The Beast.
Growing the pool of organ donors in Australia will mean more people like Patrick can get a new lease on life.
“I’ve loved going back to surfing. I only get those little moments out there, but the feeling is unreal,” Mr Lucas told The Beast.
“It’s one of my goals to get stronger and get confident again out in the surf.”
Having been through an organ transplant, the Bronte couple want to stress the importance of more people signing up to give life to others who are desperately waiting for organs.
“There are lots of us who are forever grateful for our heart donors and we want to help people who are on the list now. Please sign up, go to the website, have that conversation with your family and say, ‘This is what my wishes are’.”
If you would like to sign up to the organ donor register, please visit donatelife.gov.au.

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