Organ donation increases in Tasmania, recipient shares story

Deloraine's Joanne Bussey, who received a new kidney 30 years ago, and DonateLife Tasmania executive officer Davin Hibberd. Picture: Tamara McDonald

Deloraine's Joanne Bussey, who received a new kidney 30 years ago, and DonateLife Tasmania executive officer Davin Hibberd. Picture: Tamara McDonald

When Joanne Bussey was just 21 years old, she received a new kidney.

The donated organ became her fourth kidney, as she was born with three.

The Deloraine 52-year-old dealt with internal reflux, or a condition called reflux nephropathy.

She had infections as a child and was “often sick”.

When she reached grade 11 the situation worsened and she was in and out of hospital.

Her kidneys failed after Mrs Bussey finished high school, and she joined the waiting list for a new organ.

In the intermediary she was on dialysis, travelling from Elizabeth Town to Hobart to dialyse three times a week, before finding a dialysis machine to use in Launceston.

Nearly four years after joining the list, she went to Melbourne to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. 

She said her father didn’t recognise her when she returned to Tasmania after she recovered in Melbourne, and the she felt an “instant” change after the kidney transplant. 

“It’s just amazing,” Mrs Bussey said. 

Mrs Bussey said there was probably stigma around organ transplants then and now. 

Thirty years ago, organ donation was not as common as it is now. 

DonateLife Tasmania executive officer Davin Hibberd said the during the period people were on dialysis quality of life “really slipped away”. 

Organ donation has increased in Tasmania. 

There were 11 deceased organ donors in 2016 compared to nine in 2015 in the state, Mr Hibberd said. 

Tasmania had the second highest rate of registrations on the Australian Donor Register as a percentage of the registrable population. Almost 48 per cent of Tasmanians were registered to donate.

Mrs Bussey encouraged people to have conversations with their families around donation, due to Australia’s ‘opt in’ policy.

Potential donors need to inform their families of their consent.

“People don’t understand … the opportunity to donate organs is very rare, it’s less than one per cent of people that pass away in hospital go on to donate,” Mr Hibberd said. 

You can register as an organ donor online at the Australian Organ Donor Register, and find information at www.donatelife.gov.au

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