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
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/gov.au -
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.