Organ donation figures improving but more is needed

Life goes on: Joe Stolker, Leonnee Pinchen-Martin and son Levi Stolker are a family that know the benefit of organ donation more than most. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210317GGD06

Life goes on: Joe Stolker, Leonnee Pinchen-Martin and son Levi Stolker are a family that know the benefit of organ donation more than most. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210317GGD06

A Tamworth family is the living embodiment of not only what can be achieved through organ donation, but also what is still needed to achieve world best practices.

Family matriarch Leonnee Pinchen-Martin is these days fighting fit after she received the gift of life five years ago when a deceased donor offered their heart to a perfect stranger.

Meanwhile husband Joe Stolker has been on daily dialysis for six years with kidney disease, and has been on the waiting list for a donor for the same amount of time.

Recently the Tamworth couple found out that Mrs Pinchen-Martin’s peri-partum cardiomyopathy is genetic and has been passed down to their five year old son Levi.

That means that at some stage he too will need a donor heart at some stage in his life, unless a cure is found first.

To meet the family you would never know, both parents work full time jobs and have relatively normal lifestyles, but underneath the calm exterior the family know that at any minute a phone call might come through that is life changing, and not just for them.

“It really is bitter sweet,” Mrs Pinchen-Martin said.

“It is very exciting as a recipient because you are getting a second chance at life. At the same time there is a family going through the loss of a loved one and you have to understand that.” 

“Every day I only wake up because of another person and the decision they and their family have made.” 

For obvious reasons the family would like to see more organ and tissue donation in Australia, and Mrs Pinchen-Martin believes that advocacy, education and communication are key.

“Schools are a great place to start the conversation and the government needs to introduce world best practice and more specialised staff in the health system.” 

Only one in one hundred deaths in Australia occur in circumstances that allow for organ donation.

Mrs Pinchen-Martin knows all too well how important that can be and is about to embark on a mission that hopes to see every available organ put to life-saving use, starting with advocacy and education in Tamworth.

Mrs Pinchen-Martin received a heart in 2012, although unfortunately is again playing the waiting game with her husband needing a kidney.

“There is on average 1200 people waiting for a kidney and a further 12,000 on dialysis, and only 1% of people die in circumstances that allow for donation,” Ms Pinchen-Martin said. That is why every potential donor needs to be identified in the health system.” 

Last year NSW recorded the highest ever number of deceased organ donors with 133, resulting in 412 life saving transplants.

As of the end of January there were 6,333,494 Australians registered on the organ donation list, although more are needed. To register go to www.donatelife.gov.au

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