Last February Oak Flats grandmother Lorna Thomas got the best phone call of her life when she was told she had reached the top of the list for a kidney transplant.
Twelve months on, the 71-year-old is urging all Australians to talk to their loved ones about their wishes in regards to organ donation as part of this week's NSW DonateLife Week.
"When I got the call on February 12 to come straight to Prince of Wales Hospital because they had a kidney for me, I think I just flew around the room, I don't remember my feet touching the ground," she said.
"It's changed my life. Now, if one of my children or grandchildren ask if I can go somewhere with them, I don't have to look at the clock and think about when I need to start dialysis.
"My husband and I are also planning to do a bit of travelling in our caravan - something that wasn't possible before."
Reflux from childhood caused irreparable damage to Mrs Thomas's kidneys and for the 12 years prior to the transplant, she'd had to endure dialysis five hours a day, four days a week.
She's recovered well from the transplant surgery and has sent a letter to the family of her donor, who she was told died in a car accident.
"I think a lot about my donor. I'm so grateful for the family who donated - it's the greatest gift of all."
NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service state medical director Dr Robert Herkes said NSW experienced a 16 per cent increase in donors in 2013, with 102 people donating organs for transplantation, compared with 88 in 2012.
Dr Herkes said this had resulted in a 20 per cent increase in the number of organs transplanted in NSW last year.
"In Australia, the family will always be asked to confirm the donation decision of the deceased before donation for transplantation can proceed," he said.
"Families that have discussed and know each other's donation decisions are much more likely to support organ and tissue donation proceeding."
Recipient’s plea for more organ donors
Wollongong double lung transplant recipient Jessica Sparks is urging more Australians to register to be organ donors to give others a second chance at life.
The University of Wollongong student, the founder of organ and tissue donation non-profit organisation SparkingLife, said while there had been improvements in organ and tissue donation over the past few years, there was still a long way to go. ‘‘Australia is ranked 22nd in the world for our donation rates – one of the lowest in the developed world,’’ she said.
‘‘And NSW, despite recent improvements, still has one of the lowest donation rates in the country.’’
Ms Sparks, 22, encouraged Australians to have a conversation about organ and tissue donation and to register as an organ donor this DonateLife Week.
‘‘Four-and-a-half years ago, I had no quality of life, I was in hospital in pain and struggling to breathe, I was about to die,’’ Ms Sparks said. ‘‘Fortunately, thanks to a family out there who said yes to organ donation, I’ve been given a second chance of life.
‘‘The simple fact is I wouldn’t be here without an organ donor – I’ve wholeheartedly embraced that and I take nothing for granted.’’
Ms Sparks said while a majority of Australians claimed they supported organ and tissue donation, that didn’t translate into actual consents and donations taking place.
‘‘When you look at the national statistics for 2013, there were 725 potential donors identified around the country but only 391 of those ended up becoming donors,’’ she said.
‘‘That’s a massive gap – almost half – in what’s already a very small pool of people nationwide who pass away in the circumstances to donate at all.
‘‘And every missed opportunity, means people waiting for transplants miss out and must keep waiting – sadly, some never receive that organ donation they desperately needed, and die waiting.’’
To register to become a donor visit http://cdn.fairfaxregional.com.au/storypad-Fm8CCB2wju4yBNyNWEK6rB/organ%20donor%20registration.pdf