Donor coordinator provides insight on organ and tissue donations

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July 27, 2022

In celebration of DonateLife Week 2022, which runs from Sunday 24 July to Sunday 31 July, we spoke to DonateLife WA Donor Coordinator Paul Garrity about the ins and outs of organ and tissue donation in Western Australia.

Paul’s role is to provide families with information to enable them to make an informed decision about organ and tissue donation. The Family Donation Conversation (FDC) is an opportunity to discuss what donation might mean for a family and their loved one, and also offers the chance to sensitively explore any concerns or misconceptions about donation.

Paul says organ donation is relatively uncommon, with several conditions required for a person to become an organ donor.

“Only about one per cent of people who die in hospital can be considered for organ donation,” Paul explains.

“The person must be in an intensive care unit (ICU) and be legally deceased before they can donate. There is also a rigorous consent process involving the family, designated medical staff and sometimes the WA State Coroner.”

“Before a donation occurs, I must gather enough information to ensure the person is suitable to donate. This involves laboratory tests, medical imaging and discussions with medical and transplant specialists.”

“The surgery will not go ahead until the transplant recipients are identified, which can sometimes take up to two or three days after the first meeting with the donor’s family.

“Some families welcome this additional time to be with their loved one while others want the process completed as soon as possible. As part of my role as a Donor Coordinator, I work alongside these families to support them and ensure their needs are met. 

Paul also manages referrals for corneal and bone donation. Under certain circumstances, corneal donation can take place up to 48 hours after the donor’s death and bone donation can be done up to 24 hours afterwards.

Paul explains that if a person wishes to be a donor, it’s important they register as an organ and tissue donor and communicate with their loved ones about this decision.

“Families who know their loved one wanted to donate are much more likely to support that decision and provide consent, but it is common for families to not know what the person’s wishes were,” Paul said.

“Deciding on behalf of someone else can be very difficult if you don’t know what they wanted, which is why donor registration is so important.

“If you are open to donating, don’t assume you are ineligible if you think you’re not ‘healthy’ enough to be a donor. Being ill, having poor eyesight or making ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle choices doesn’t necessarily mean your organs and tissues are all unhealthy.

“If you want the best chance of helping a stranger through a life-changing transplant, the most important thing you can do is register and talk to your family and friends about your decision.”

Register to be a donor today on the DonateLife (external site).

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