Contributed

Gift of life the best of all

FORGET diamonds, iPods and fancy cars, there is no gift more important than the gift of life.

There is nothing that beats the knowledge that through your selfless act someone else may live to see another day, or a new life might be given the chance to flourish.

But it can be confusing knowing what you can donate, what the process is and where you go for information.

Here's the rundown on all you need to know in order to give the gift of life.

Blood donation

One in three people will require blood in their life but only one in 30 donates.

Australian Red Cross Blood Donation centres require donations to keep their supplies and stocks at a healthy level.

Community relations officer Rebecca Ind said it didn’t take much to donate but the benefits to others were great. The gift of blood truly is the gift of life.

“50% of the population is eligible to donate,” she said.

The basic criteria to be eligible is:

  • To be feeling fit and healthy
  • Aged 16-70
  • Weigh more than 50kg
  • Not had a tattoo in the last six months
  • Not lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996
  • Not pregnant or have given birth in the last nine months

Ms Ind said that if you had been turned down from giving blood before for whatever factor, it was worth giving it another go as often variables can change over time. You may not have been able to donate then but that doesn’t mean you can’t donate now.

The process of giving blood is fairly simple. Ms Ind recommends allowing an hour which includes time to fill out paper work, the actual giving of blood and a small rest time afterwards where you have something to eat and drink.

Before you go to donate she recommends having four good sized glasses of water and a good sized meal.

Regular donors can donate every 12 weeks and platelet donors can donate every two weeks.

Ms Ind says the challenge is getting people to commit to regular donations.

“We all get very busy. But when you donate it’s in the hospitals within 24 hours. We need to maintain supplies.”

One of the most difficult times for the donation centres was long weekends. There are fewer days to collect and an increase in demand for blood and blood products during holiday periods.

Ms Ind encouraged people to make it a habit to donate before they go away on a long weekend, or make the effort on a public holiday to spare some time to donate.

For more information or to find your nearest centre visit www.donateblood.com.au.

Egg and sperm donation

Few gifts are as selfless and rewarding as giving the gift of the love and joy of a child.

IVF Sunshine Coast scientific director Ashley Stevenson said while the donation of sperm, blood and even the transplant of organs was well known, the donation of eggs was still relatively new.

“There’s always a shortage of eggs donors. We actively encourage people to donate,” he said.

The first egg donation was completed in the mid-80s in Victoria and while the technology has been available since worldwide, there are only a small number of donors.

On average he said his clinic received one egg donation a month, but the demand far outweighed the supply. For every egg donated there are three people on the waiting list.

This is a common occurrence with clinics across Australia.

Mr Stevenson hoped that through education and community awareness these figures could change.

To be eligible to be an egg donor women are required to be between the ages of 21 and 35, have had at least one child and are in good health with no hereditary disorders.

An egg donor has no legal rights or financial obligations over the child but can meet the recipient couple if both choose to. They also agree that once the child is 18, the child has a right to contact them.

Mr Stevenson explained that the process to donate was fairly simple. At IVF Sunshine Coast they have a donor co-ordinator who meets with the potential donor. They have an interview, the process is explained and they build up a medical profile.

“We also listen to the donor in terms to who they would like the recipient to be,” he explained.

Mr Stevenson said while some women were happy for their eggs to go to any woman wanting a baby, others wanted to be a little more selective, and they did their best to accommodate this.

The donor goes through the same cycle as a woman going through IVF. The eggs are removed and inseminated with the partner’s sperm and that ends the role of the donor.

Unlike sperm, which is collected at clinics across the Sunshine Coast and sent to a central collection point where recipients can view the profiles online, egg donations are all handled individually by each clinic.

With the shortage of donor eggs, Mr Stevenson said it was quite common to see couples placing ads in the local paper looking for donors. This was the case with a Western Australian couple who appeared on the Today show recently. They were 45th on the list for a donor egg so they took things into their own hands and found a donor themselves.

Organ donation

There are around 1700 people in Australia waiting for an organ transplant.

Australia has a world class reputation for successful transplants but also has one of the lowest donation rates. One organ donor and tissue donor can save the lives of up to 10 people. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Unlike blood or egg or sperm donation, almost anyone can be an organ donator. Age, health and lifestyle are no restriction.

Even people who are prolific smokers can donate, they may not be able to donate their liver or lungs, but they can donate other organs or tissues.

Even if you register has a donor, at the time of death the final decision rests with the family. At present only 58% of families give consent for the donation to proceed.

One of the most important things to increase the donor rate is for families to be aware and onboard with each other’s wishes, intentions and beliefs in regards to organ donation.

According to DonateLife, people think that deciding to become an organ donor is a private decision and they do not always realise that even if you have registered your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register, your family’s consent is still required.

They urge donors to have clear and in-depth conversations with their family about their wishes.

To join the Australian Organ Donor Register you simply have to make the decision and visit www.medicare.gov.au or www.donorregister.gov.au.

One of the myths around organ donation is the fear that doctors will be less likely to save you after an accident or illness if you are a donor. DonateLife stresses that this is not the case.

It is not until death occurs that the issue of donation arises. When someone dies in circumstances where they can become an organ donor, the intensive care medical team raises the possibility of donation with the patient’s family.

For more information about organ donation or to become a donor visit www.donatelife.gov.au.


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