Recipient Louise Owens (right) was at Lismore Base Hospital to promote Organ Donation Awareness with (from left) donation co-ordinator Mary Campbell, LBH clinical champion Lisa Warne and organ and tissue donation director, Dr Michael Lindley-Jones.
Recipient Louise Owens (right) was at Lismore Base Hospital to promote Organ Donation Awareness with (from left) donation co-ordinator Mary Campbell, LBH clinical champion Lisa Warne and organ and tissue donation director, Dr Michael Lindley-Jones. Cathy Adams

Grateful for organ donation

A GRATEFUL heart recipient helped kick off Organ Donation Awareness Week at Lismore Base Hospital yesterday.

Louise Owens was 26 weeks pregnant when she had a heart attack almost 20 years ago.

She was working as a PE teacher at St Mary’s in Grafton and the lessons she had given her students in CPR and first aid helped save her life.

“The kids knew what to do,” Ms Owens said yesterday.

She was taken to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane by helicopter, where she spent two weeks. Her daughter, Katy, was delivered premature by cesarean section.

Ms Owens was suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a thickening of the heart muscles – and was initially treated with an implantable defibrillator.

In July last year she was put on the list of recipients for a new organ.

She received her new heart in an operation in St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, on October 21, and she said she ‘can’t believe the difference’.

A mere four months later Ms Owens can run up the 16 stairs to her Lennox Head home.

A donor’s details are always protected, Ms Owens said, but she knows that the heart belonged to a 22-year-old man.

Michael Lindley-Jones, the North Coast’s director of organ and tissue donation, said although deciding to give organs occurred during the saddest time for a family, the feedback was 100 per cent positive about the decision.

Australia also had the best survival rate after transplant surgery, he said. However, it had one of the poorest donation rates in the world – a quarter that of Spain, and a third that of the US, he said.

At present there were 1800 people on the waiting list.

One donor could contribute to the health of 10 recipients, Dr Lindley-Jones said.

The youngest recipient in Australia had been a three-week-old baby girl who received a new liver and was now a fighting fit nine-year-old.

“Sixty-nine very generous families in NSW made a life-transforming difference to 215 people last year,” Dr Lindley-Jones said.

The aim was to double this figure, by encouraging people to discuss organ donation with their families and get to know each other’s wishes.

Ms Owens, 49, said the process had not been an easy one, and the key was to remain positive.

That positive attitude has turned into gratitude.

“I can’t explain how grateful I am to the donor family and friends for their gracious gift of giving me life,” she said.



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