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DonateLife Week 2021

Organ transplant recipient thankful for donor family's life-changing decision.

Man in hospital bed with machines
SydneyConnect Image: Adrian McWilliam

Adrian McWilliam is feeling blessed.

"I know that someone's life was lost for mine to be saved," he said from his home in Lewisham in Sydney's inner-west.

Last year, Adrian, 28, had a liver transplant at the Australian National Liver Transplantation Unit based at RPA.

"I am 100 per cent thankful, and am so lucky that another family made the choice to do good for others. The organ donation has meant that I've got a second chance," he said.

This week, the District is marking DonateLife Week, a national campaign that encourages Australians to register as organ and tissue donors.

The campaign is aiming for up to 100,000 more Australians to join the register, and for them to tell their loved ones about their decision.

As 2020 began, Adrian didn't have an inkling his life was about to change.

He was admitted to RPA with what he thought was a stomach bug. Tests revealed he had cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver which affects how the organ functions.

"I was a healthy person. I had no obvious signs or symptoms," he said.

He was later diagnosed with Wilson's disease - a rare genetic condition in which the liver is unable to process excess copper in the body. It can lead to liver failure.

His specialist prescribed daily medication, but two months later Adrian was again admitted to RPA because the tablets had stopped working. He had liver failure.

He was placed on the wait list for a liver transplant and had a transplant the following day.

"It happened so quickly. I was quite nervous at the time but the surgeon explained the process to me. The best thing for me was to get it done," Adrian said.

The operation went smoothly and Adrian has recovered well. He's since returned to work and is enjoying everyday life.

For Adrian, reflecting on how the past year has unfolded is hard.

"I've experienced loss myself. And, I know that for my transplant to happen a life was lost. I hope that the donor's family knows that some good has come from it," he said.

Now, he wants to raise awareness about organ donation.

There are approximately 1650 Australians waiting for a life-changing organ transplant.

Data from the Organ and Tissue Authority shows that in 2020, 463 deceased organ donors and their families saved the lives of 1270 organ recipients.

The Authority states there are more than seven million people registered on the Australian Organ Donor Register - which equates to one-in-three (or 34 per cent) of the eligible population.

The Authority estimates there are about another 13 million Australians aged 16 years and above who are eligible to register as organ and tissue donors.

"It could be you - organ donation could save your life. Or, it may be someone else who you can help," Adrian said.

The easiest way to register - or to check if you're registered – is on the DonateLife website, at donatelife.gov.au/register