ShareLife Blog

Strangers on a shared road - a recipient's mum says thank you to donor families this Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Will Chapman is 20 years old. In June he launched a YouTube video. He said: "I'm living with heart and lung failure. Without a heart and double lung transplant I won't make Christmas." The video has garnered over 25,000 views. More than 10,000 of those in its first week. Will knew that there were are many people across the country facing the same "lottery" because there are far fewer organ donors than waiting recipients. Each donor can save or transform ten lives.

Will's family moved from their home in a coastal town to be close to hospital. The family's lives uprooted, waiting and hoping for "a gracious gift". Some of the mates Will made along the way died waiting. Thankfully, Will is with us this Christmas ten weeks after receiving a double lung and heart transplant. He is spending Christmas by the sea with his family and he is building his strength back up. In this blog post, his mum, Julie Chapman writes about her family's experience and their gratitude to a family they do not know.


The Chapman Family


Strangers on a shared road

My name is Julie Chapman. I feel we have been blessed, as successful organ donation and transplantation has allowed us to finally move home to paradise, where we will celebrate Christmas, and a future, together.  For many agonising months I had to quell insatiable fear, fuelled by the very real possibility my 20 year old son, Will could die waiting. We desperately tried to remain positive despite being told by numerous specialists candidacy would be tough as Will needed multiple organs and a donor shortage existed. 

Words expressing the roller coaster of emotions are inadequate. Now is not the time. As I write I weep, a year’s stored tears shed not for us but for a boy who won’t spend Christmas with his family ever again. Whoever Will’s donor family is, I hope you find some consolation your son’s heart beats strong in Will’s chest, his lungs give Will life sustaining breath. Not a sign of rejection. It’s a miracle. At times I wonder how many other lives you saved... Bless you and your family.

Will continues to fight for national reform in tribute to his donor. This boy saved Will’s life. If not for his family, my family would have been drowning in a similar black abyss this Christmas. You saved us from a lifetime of despair. You saved our son. Thank you.

Collectively donor families have saved thousands of families all over Australia. The reality is generous donor families are grieving this Christmas. I hope the knowledge their decision prevented other families from burying loved ones gives some comfort.

These people are the true heroes of organ donation and transplantation.

Will began a campaign in June, launching his “A Gracious Gift” video on YouTube, believing the answer to the donor crisis was increased awareness. Since then we have experienced harsh enlightenment.

In August Will was transported by ambulance from St Vincent’s Hospital to RPA to sit on a SAV’D panel with transplant specialists, a beautiful donor family representative and a grateful liver recipient. Representatives of the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority and Donate Life were present. That night Will chose to launch the advertisement, its creation and network distribution further proof Australia wants a solution. Please take the time to read the open letter from Mat Baxter on Mumbrella. William passionately described the harsh message was not aimed at you, the Australian public, but at those who control and defend a failing organ donation system. I quote Will, “anything other than world’s best practice is unacceptable. I’m sure we can all agree on that.”

Other tragic victims of this less than adequate system are some individuals who in the past refused consent. The fact we have such a substantial refusal rate in Australia indicates something terribly wrong is occurring, or not occurring, when the time comes when there is a rare organ donation opportunity. Failure within the hospital system at this pivotal time is responsible for some families becoming innocent victims of regret in latter years. I hope this Christmas you too will find peace.

Did Will do all this for self interest or altruism? This question has been posed to Will. The answer is evident. Will, having received his gracious gift, has been advised by many to step back, smell the roses and focus on his rehabilitation, to heal physically and emotionally. For the sake of humanity he can’t. He knows too much to condone the status quo. He understands not all people in end stage organ failure can be saved, but he knows a proven solution was given to the Federal Government in 2008 and it has not been implemented expediently, resulting in devastating human suffering and death, some of these our friends.

Last month a record number of donor families gave their consent to organ donation and transplantation, 45 donors. Whether this substantial increase resulted from increased identification of potential donors or an increased consent rate is not known. Perhaps Will’s courageous endeavours initiated discussion. Life and death are the only constants in this life yet death is a subject rarely discussed.

I’d like to sincerely thank the physicians, lead by the humane Professor Alan Glanville and the entire surgical team whose professionalism and expertise saved William’s life. We are also indebted to the registrars and interns, our doctors of the future, the dedicated and compassionate cardio thoracic nurses on Level 10, the specialist transplant triage nurses and educators, the social workers, the pastoral care, the ward staff, the cleaners and the smiling faces on the front desk; I am eternally grateful to you all. And special thanks to a person I’ll never know, the donor coordinator who gained consent from William’s donor family in their darkest hour. May you all enjoy Christmas and the privilege of a happy, healthy 2013.

In time I will share our family’s journey through a mother’s eyes, and as you read I hope you too, will gain more understanding of the facts, and when the time comes, stand alongside us and say, enough.

This Christmas be reminded of love and giving, intrinsic in our donor families.

Find Will on Twitter and Facebook.

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