Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Organ donation advocate and volunteer fondly remembered

BY Megan Doherty The Canberra Times

Andrew Bird was well known in Canberra for his strong advocacy of organ donation and his volunteer work with the YMCA.

But his cheeky sense of humor and spirit of life were what most people remembered about him.

Mr Bird, who would have turned 41 on December 28, died last month, just six months after receiving a double lung transplant at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

The former bus driver suffered from coronary obstructive pulmonary disease, which he developed in the past three years, and which was partly related to emphysema.

His parents, Noreen and Des Bird, of Farrer, cared for their son in his final years. Family and friends gathered at Andrew's funeral in Canberra earlier this month after his death on November 27.

"I was there when he took his first breath and there when he took his last," Mrs Bird said.

Andrew, who volunteered with the YMCA, at its community gym at Chifley among other places, was "a great jokester" who tried never to let his illness affect his positive outlook.

"He always had a job, he always looked on the bright side of life, always had girlfriends, and in the last three years of his life he became very proactive in promoting organ donor awareness," she said.

He had been a moderate smoker and gave up as soon as his condition became known. He was on an oxygen tank 24 hours a day until his transplant.

"I don't advocate anyone putting a cigarette in their mouth and Andrew should have been one who never did," Mrs Bird said.

When he received his double lung transplant in May, Mr Bird was able to breathe on his own. He could play his beloved lawn bowls at Yamba Sports Club unencumbered by his oxygen tank. He believed he had a second chance at life.

"He was really good in the first little while. He was playing sport. He tried to ride a bike and put on weight and was looking well," Mrs Bird said.

"Then bells started to ring that things weren't quite right. His transplant team was really devastated because an extremely low percentage of people have complications in their first 12 months of receiving an organ and it happened to him. They worked so hard for him. And he fought so hard."

Mr Bird couldn't donate his own organs because of the medical drugs he had to take but he was always grateful to his donor.

Mr Bird Sr rang Ian "Macca" McNamara on ABC Radio's Australia All Over yesterday to let him know about Andrew's death and to thank the St Vincent's transplant team. Andrew had been a regular caller to Macca.

"He had a bloody go," Mr Bird said.

Among those to offer the Birds their condolences was Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, who wrote a letter of sympathy on behalf of his Government and "the people of Canberra".

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

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

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