By Miranda Forster
(Australian Associated Press)
Weighing up whether her mother would have wanted her organs donated, while trying to come to terms with her sudden death, wasn’t how Sydneysider Leigh Drew ever wished to spend Christmas.
But when the 40-year-old IT worker’s mum suffered a fatal aneurysm on December 25, 2013, she was left with the painful decision.
It was made all the harder because they never had a chance to discuss it.
“I had grown up thinking we were an opt-out country, not an opt-in country so I just assumed that this would be something that she would be happy to do because I would be happy to do it,” Ms Drew said of her choice to say “yes”.
“So I made the decision not necessarily knowing, but it does turn out that she was on the registry – phew!”
Within a day of consenting, she learned one of her mother’s kidneys had already been given to someone in need.
She later received a heartfelt thank-you card from one of the recipients explaining how they would now live to see their children grow up.
“That sort of realness, that sort of experience really does help to get through the grief of death, ” Ms Drew said.
“I feel that (my mother) would be very happy with the decision that was made.”
Organ donation rates in NSW have reached an all-time high, with 127 people donating their organs in 2015.
The previous record was 102 people in 2013.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner put the boost down to a shift to a national register, and the introduction of “designated requesters” trained in approaching potential donors’ families.
But with more than 1600 Australians on the transplant wait list at any given time, health authorities are encouraging more people to sign up and let their families know their wishes.
Ms Drew, now a registered organ donor, urged others to join.
“If you can, do it please,” she said.
“And also, if you are thinking about it, please tell your family because it is a very difficult time for us.
“Being asked that question and knowing what your answer would be is incredibly important.”