Australian PM Kevin Rudd, in blue shirt, joins 1,500 walkers to promote organ & tissue donationHave an opinion on this article? Click on comments at the end of this post
Walking to give new life
BY MEGAN DOHERTY The Canberra Times
Prime Minister and transplant recipient Kevin Rudd donned the tracky dacks (sweat pants, bottom half of a tracksuit) yesterday to join a joyous Terry Connolly ORGANised Walk around Lake Burley Griffin.
Mr Rudd, who had a transplant in his mid-30s to replace a heart valve, was among 1500 walkers who turned out on a calm Canberra morning to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation.
About 200 people signed up to the Australian Organ Donor Register. There were only five multi-organ donors in the ACT last year.
The walk is named in honour of ACT Supreme Court judge Justice Terry Connolly, who died in September 2007, and later had his corneas donated to two people.
With Walking on Sunshine playing over the loudspeakers and 200 yellow balloons flying to mark the almost 200 people waiting for a transplant in the ACT and region, the walk was officially started by Justice Connolly's daughters Lara, 16, and Maddy, 15, cutting a yellow ribbon.
The girls, who attend St Clare's College, along with fellow students yesterday were thrilled when Mr Rudd decided to sit down and have a chat with them before the walk started.
Justice Connolly's widow Helen Watchirs said they had both registered as organ donors about two years before his sudden death. She encouraged other families to have the same conversation so they could register early rather than having to think about it in a moment of grief.
Dr Watchirs said she knew one of the recipients of her husband's donated tissue was a 22-year-old woman who had been waiting four years for a transplant. The walk was a practical way to encourage organ donation and remember her husband.
"People kind of ask what they can do to keep his memory alive and I think this is a good way. People are happy and talking and catching up after not seeing each other for months, it's really nice," she said. Justice Connolly always wanted to donate more organs but too much time had elapsed after his death.
"It doesn't matter how small you contribute, he just gave all he had. He didn't save a life but it made a difference to someone's life," Dr Watchirs said.
Meanwhile, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope welcomed the crowd and Mr Rudd as "our prime minister and a fellow Canberran". "It's a lovely morning for a walk, it's a great day to be alive and it's a great day to think about the gift of life," he said.
Among the walkers was Stephen Williams, of Nicholls, who received a second lung transplant last year.
"This would probably be the longest walk I've done with these lungs," he said, with a smile.
Australian National University medical student Michelle Maddock had a special reason to be on the walk her mother Margaret died in 2002 and her multiple-organ donation helped five people. Miss Maddock is now training to be a doctor after working as a nurse at Westmead Hospital, where she was involved in organ transplants.
"Mum was able to help other people to keep going and allow their families to have more time with them," she said.
Queanbeyan couple Sharon and Pat Siciliano were also on the walk with seven-year-old daughter Emily. Mr Siciliano had a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2005 after being on dialysis for 212 years due to Type 1 diabetes.
Mrs Siciliano's father Graham Nicholson also had his organs donated following his death last November.
"Dad became a donor because he used to help me look after Pat and he knew he could help others," she said.
Mr Siciliano was now feeling "a million dollars". "It's something you can't describe to have them home and well," his wife said.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves