Push for multicultural organ donation ahead of Australian Transplant Games


An inspiring new campaign has been launched to encourage more people to donate ahead of the Transplant Games, being held in one of Australia's most culturally diverse areas.

Fifteen-year-old Mohammad Farran underwent a heart transplant five years ago, and his life changed remarkably.

"Before the transplant I couldn't really do much sport - always at home, lying in bed, and now after the transplant, I feel free," he said.

"I can run, I can play games, I can hang with friends, I can go anywhere."

And that’s usually never far from the soccer field.

He’s now combining his love of soccer with promoting what allowed him to keep playing.

"I would encourage all other Australians like me to register as an organ donor to save other people's lives and let them have a second chance," he said.

He's one of six ambassadors for the up-coming Australian Transplant Games being held in western Sydney from September 24.

“I’m very excited for the games, meeting other people who've had transplants - not only heart - but any other organ is very important, as I can see their story and learn about other people,” he said.

Most of the ambassadors are from ethnic backgrounds, like Mary Chan.

The 48-year-old collapsed on the badminton court as her kidneys gave out, before her brother Raymond donated his kidney.

She now has a new lease on life.

"I'll be playing badminton and going for gold - so anyone playing badminton watch out," Ms Chan said.

Vietnamese-Australian Andrew Vien is another ambassador. He was diagnosed with leukaemia at age five, and had a kidney transplant in 2011.

"Before the transplant, life was really miserable," he said. "From the time I was connected to the dialysis machine I'd be stuck in my room there."

But now: "Life has changed dramatically, so much for the better. I can go out, I can drive places, I can do my own things, it's a sense of freedom."

He'll be ten-pin bowling in the Games, at a location teeming with cultural diversity.

New South Wales Health Minister Jillian Skinner said she was thrilled with western Sydney being chosen as the venue.

“We’re very proud of the work we’re doing out there in health and the marvellous work being done in Westmead Hospital and others,” she said.

“The spirit and drive of those athletes involved in this reminds us of the benefits of organ and tissue donation.”

Multicultural communities traditionally have very low organ donation rates.

Transplant Australia CEO Chris Thomas said it was important all Australians, regardless of their cultural background or religion, get the organ donation message.

“One of the most important things that we've learnt is that people who come to Australia from all different types of nations actually bring their donation rate with them when they arrive here,” Mr Thomas said.

“So if they come from countries where organ donation doesn't have the same high reputation, the same standards that we have in Australia, they can be a little bit concerned, they can have some myths and misconceptions about it. So what we need to do is to encourage all Australians regardless of their background.”

He said about four per cent of donors had an Asian background, yet 16 per cent of people waiting for kidney transplants were of Asian descent.

The “Gifted” campaign promoting the 15th Australian Transplant Games is running for the next four months, and highlighting less than a third of Australians are on the national donation register.

Donation proceeds in 91 per cent of cases where the deceased was a registered donor, compared to just 52 per cent if the person was not registered and the family had no prior knowledge.

But Organ and Tissue Authority Acting CEO Felicity McNeill said last year was a record year for donations.

"We saved 1200 lives last year through organ and tissue donation," she said. "We have 1500 people on a waiting list [and] we have 11,000 people on dialysis. Those are big numbers. But less than 1000 people a year are suitable to become an organ donor,” she said.

Supporters say the next frontier is really to improve consent rates of all Australians regardless of their cultural backgrounds - and it's hoped the Transplant Games will help that.

To register for the Australian Organ Donor Register, follow the link here.

Source SBS News

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