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David's story - One day to live

Almost thirty years ago, I faced a sudden and unexpected crisis. I had

enjoyed a very interesting and varied life during a career with the Australian

diplomatic service, most recently as Consul-General in New Caledonia. I was

in good health and married with two teenage sons.

I travelled to Papua New Guinea in 1990 leading an Australian conference

delegation and from there joined then Foreign Minister Gareth Evans for a

visit to New Caledonia on the way home. Soon afterwards, I was struck by

acute hepatitis and admitted to Canberra Hospital. As my condition

deteriorated, I was transferred to the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. The

option of transplantation, which was very new in those days, was explained

and I agreed, if my condition worsened, to allow my doctors to proceed with

transplantation as a last resort. I soon entered into a coma with less than a

day to live.

The medical team who saved my life described it as a miracle – to survive in

that poor condition and to receive a matching liver in such a short timeframe.

For my family and I, it felt much more than that. After a lengthy

convalescence, life eventually returned to normal. It led to much closer

bonding amongst our family and friends who lent us enormous support during

the upheaval.

I worked for another fifteen years after that and became Australia’s Consul-

General in Hong Kong. Following retirement, having been a beneficiary, I

decided to do whatever I could to promote greater awareness of the

importance of organ and tissue donation. This reflected not only my strong

appreciation of the special gift I had been lucky enough to receive, but also

the fact that each year in Australia the waiting list for transplants far exceeds

the number of organs available – many people die waiting.

I joined Gift of Life in 2008 and have been President since 2010. Gift of Life is

the leading community advocacy group for organ and tissue donation in the

ACT and surrounding region and it also plays a significant national role. It

contributes by organizing major events, including Gift of Life’s annual

DonateLife Walk around the lake in Canberra, and other activities as well as

engaging in policy advocacy.

My family is forever indebted to the skill and compassion shown to us over the

years by the Austin Hospital transplant team and to the extraordinary

generosity of the donor family – who remain unknown to us. They are always

in our thoughts and have our lifelong warm appreciation.

I hope my story and the fact that I am still able to contribute energetically

nearly three decades on will help inspire others to register to potentially

become an organ donor should the situation ever arise –donatelife/ -

registration. If you think you would ever in such circumstances want to

become the recipient of a transplant, help support this important cause and

sign up to become an organ and tissue donor now.


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