Kidney recipient Matthew Hempstalk says rising number of organ donors is making a difference.
Kidney recipient Matthew Hempstalk says rising number of organ donors is making a difference. John McCutcheon

Organ donations on the rise

MATTY Hempstalk was only three when the tube between his bladder and kidneys became blocked.

By the time doctors discovered the problem, the damage had been done.

Matty, 35, of Kings Beach in Caloundra, has spent years on dialysis machines.

So he was over the moon yesterday when new figures were released revealing that Australians were responding to a Federal Government push to increase organ and tissue donations.

"This is just great," the health volunteer said yesterday.

"This is saving lives."

The statistics showed that 337 donors saved or improved the lives of 1001 Australians last year.

While it may not sound like many, the results had experts in raptures.

"This is the highest annual total of deceased organ donors and transplant recipients in Australia's history," Australian and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry chairman Graeme Russ said.

The Organ and Tissue Authority's national medical director Jonathan Gillis said the donations last year were 9% higher than the year before.

Dr Gillis said only 1% of hospital patients could benefit from organ or tissue donations.

"But what a difference it makes to them," he said.

Dr Gillis said Western Australia (from 22 donations to 33), the Northern Territory (two to four) and Queensland (47 to 67) had significant rises.

He said Australia, which now had a 14.9 donor per million population rate, was aiming for a rate of about 30.

Dr Gillis said that Spain's rate was the best in the world.

"It took them 10 years to get there ... and we can do that too," he said.

"All we need to do is move ahead, bit by bit, to make a difference."

Matty is one of the lucky ones.

He had his first kidney transplant when he was 14.

It failed in 2001, and he had to go back on to dialysis, three times a week, at Nambour General Hospital.

"It played havoc with work, let alone my social life," he said.

In 2005, he was given another kidney.

Matty has made the most of the time he has been given.

He has competed in four World Transplant Games in England, Thailand, Melbourne and Sweden and volunteers to help Transplant Australia whenever he can.

Matty said the government's push, which was now in its second year, had helped to give more structure and focus to donations.

"It has made a difference ... that is all you can ask," he said.

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