RON Spriggs knows very well the value of organ donation.
This time last year he received a second chance at life after receiving the gift of a new heart.
With Donate Life Week next week, Ron has his heart set on starting the conversation of organ donation in the community in an effort to raise organ donor rates.
Donate Life Week is Australia’s national awareness week to promote organ and tissue donation.
This year it runs between Sunday February 24 and March 3, with a range of events taking place across Australia to provide an opportunity to start discussions about how people can make their wish count as an organ and tissue donor.
Ron has begun speaking at a number of groups in the community like Probus, midnight basketball, Rotary and local high schools about organ donation, and to spread accurate information about why people need transplants and how to become a donor. He also encourages people to talk to their families about organ donation.
“The law still says the next of kin still have the last say,” he said.
He said it's important for people to let their family know their wishes as they will make the final say.
Problems with Ron’s heart started years ago when he had an irregular heartbeat after a virus and he developed myopathy.
In 2010 he had two valves repaired, atrial reduction and a pacemaker fitted.
“It didn’t have the result they expected,” Ron said.
In December, 2011 Ron went on the transplant list to receive a new heart.
Six weeks later he was on the operating table. After spending 11 days unconscious and six weeks in hospital he moved into a successful journey of recovery.
Ron has made exceptional progress since his operation and is back working at Wingham Pool as a lifeguard and swimming coach.
He is also back in the water swimming.
He is amazingly appreciative of his donor and now said he now feels like he is doing things with a friend. He also feels compelled to promote organ donation and tell his story to make the journey easier for others.
Ron admits before being faced with health problems, he didn’t know much about organ donation.
He is pleased the message is getting through. The number of organ donors and transplant recipients in 2011 was the highest number since national records began.
Ron said one of the common misconceptions is people think organ donation provides a cure to the problem.
“It’s not. It just swaps one set of circumstances for another. The essential part is that it offers quality of life and still requires medication,” he said.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.
“There were times when I would question whether it was all worthwhile, but things always picked up again.”
People can register as a donor visit a Medicare Service Centre, register online donorregister.gov.au or by calling 1800 777 203.
“The main thing is to simply talk about it and let people know your wishes,” he said.
Facts about organ donation
- One organ and tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of 10 or more people.
- Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes.
- Around 1600 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists.
- In Australia the family will always be asked to confirm the donation wishes of the deceased before donation can proceed.
- 44 per cent of Australians do not know or are not sure of the donation wishes of their loved ones.
- The majority of Australians (92 per cent ) that are aware of their family members’ wishes indicate they would uphold those wishes.
- The majority of Australians (81 per cent) recognise it is important to discuss their donation wishes with the people close to them.
- 77 per cent of Australians have discussed their donation wishes with their family.