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Donor recipient inspired to give back

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Donor recipient inspired to give back

For most of us, a phone call at 3am a few days before Christmas would be unwelcome, but for Cairns nurse Anna Lillie, it was life-changing.

Anna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11 and required daily dialysis after her kidneys failed at aged 30.

For most of us, a phone call at 3am a few days before Christmas would be unwelcome, but for Cairns nurse Anna Lillie, it was life-changing.

Anna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11 and required daily dialysis after her kidneys failed at aged 30.

After a three-year wait, Anna received a call in December 2012 to let her know a donor kidney and pancreas were awaiting her in Melbourne.

“It was totally bittersweet, six days before Christmas, knowing someone else’s family would be devastated while I was rejoicing, having received the most special gift,” she said.

Almost exactly four years later, a tragic accident hit Anna’s own family when her five-year-old niece drowned, but her parents didn’t hesitate, donating both of her kidneys and heart valves so others could live.  

“Being able to receive a donor’s organs totally changed my life and gave me a second chance,” she said.

Inspired by the care she received, Anna embarked on a nursing degree and this week she began working as a renal dialysis nurse with the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service.

“I really want to give something back and my ultimate goal is to be a diabetes educator,” she said.

Around 60,000 people in the Cairns and Hinterland region have registered as organ donors.

Last year, the Cairns Hospital had the highest number of donors of any regional hospital in Australia, with seven organ donors and 19 tissue donors.

Cairns Donation Specialist Nurse Loren Ginders said she wants to use DonateLife Week, which runs until 5 August, to encourage others to sign up.

“Many Far North Queenslanders just like Anna are living their lives to the fullest because of the generosity of organ donors and their families,” she said.

“We already know that residents in the region overwhelmingly support organ and tissue donation, but most just haven’t taken the crucial step of registering their decision.”

Registering to be an organ and tissue donor is now quick and easy at donatelife.gov.au – a minute of your time could one day save many lives.

“Remember to have the chat with your loved ones so they know your decision, and to find out if they are willing to one day be an organ and tissue donor,” Ms Ginders said.

You can sign up directly at the DonateLife stall at the Cairns Hospital this Thursday, 3 August and support organ donation through the Cairns Parkrun event this Saturday, 4 August on the Esplanade.

Background information:

DonateLife Week runs from 29 July – 5 August.

There are currently around 1400 Australians waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. A further 11,000 people are on dialysis, many of whom would benefit from a kidney transplant.

Many people are unaware that organ registration status was taken off the Queensland drivers licence in 2006.

It takes just 60 seconds and your Medicare card to join the register at donatelife.gov.au

Organ donation is medically possible in less than 2% of all deaths. (heart, lungs, liver, kidney, pancreas & intestine) which is why so many potential donors are needed.

Never think you are too old or too ill to become a donor. People in their 80s have donated organs in Queensland.

Australia has one of the highest transplantation success rates in the world. Since 1965, more than 46,000 Australians have received lifesaving or life enhancing organ and tissue transplants.

Fast facts:

  • 90% of families agree to donation when the donor has registered their decision to donate on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
  • 73% of families agree to donation when they have prior knowledge of the deceased’s decision.
  • 44% of families agree to donation when the donor has not registered and their donor decision is not known.
  • Around six million Australians are registered on the Australian Organ Donor Register, including one million Queenslanders.
  • Most of the world’s religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jehovah’s Witness, and Sikhism support organ/tissue donation and transplantation as an act of generosity and benevolence.

For more information call the Australian Organ Donor Register on 1800 777 203.    

Media Opportunity: Donation specialist nurse Loren Ginders and donor recipient and dialysis nurse Anna Lillie will be available for interview.

When: 10am, Thursday 2 August.

Where: Meet outside Sea Breeze Café, Cairns Hospital (Esplanade entrance).

Last updated: 31 August 2018