Organ donation the best gift of all

TWO years ago, Ballarat’s Graham Mitchell was looking forward to a family Christmas get-together.

“I was trying to fix the remote control and (wife) Maggie was making fruit salad,” Mr Mitchell said.

Then, at 10.10am, a phone call changed his life.

Within minutes, Mr Mitchell, who needed a double lung transplant, was on the road to The Alfred hospital.

“All I had time for was a cold sausage,” he said.

Mr Mitchell was operated on soon after arrival, spent three days in intensive care, three weeks on the ward and stayed in Punt Road apartments for another few months until he was allowed to return to Ballarat as a new man.

“I got a great set of lungs. I know they were from a male about 40.

“You’re allowed to write the family a letter but they don’t have to reply.”

Mr Mitchell’s lung disease was caused by 50 years of painting, including swimming pools, without protective

gear.

He suffered a heart attack in 1997 and had stents put in but still never felt very well.

Mrs Mitchell said his condition was so bad he couldn’t even walk out to get the newspaper.

A lung scan showed he needed a double transplant.

“We cried all the way home,” Mrs Mitchell said.

But two years later, Mr Mitchell can walk without oxygen and has even been known to run out of hospital on visits to catch a tram.

However, he admits he often thinks about his donor, particularly at this time of year.

DonateLife nurse donation specialist Jo Forteath said Ballarat donors this year allowed for 19 transplants.

She said Ballarat had a 60 per cent donation consent rate, in line with the national average.

Ms Forteath said she helped medical staff and families deal with the donation issue, and urged families to either register on the National Organ Donor Register or talk about their wishes.

“It really does help the family if people are on the register,” she said.

For more information, go to www.donatelife.gov.au or register as a donor at www.donorregister.gov.au.

DonateLife Week will be held from February 23 to March 1 next year.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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