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Organ donation saves lives

Wednesday, 13th April, 2011

By Kurtis Eichler

As a teenager, life was great for Chris Harvey until a shock diagnosis meant he would be on the hunt for both a new kidney and a pancreas.

Now the 36-year-old is trying to raise awareness of organ donation, and trying to spread the word about the benefits it has on those fighting for their lives.

"You may just save someone's life," Mr Harvey said.

Mr Harvey, who works for the local Royal Flying Doctor Service, said he was diagnosed with type one diabetes when he was 13.

"As the months passed by, I stopped taking my diabetes tablets and things started to get out of control with my sugar levels," he said.

"I went and seen the doctor and I was put on Insulin three times a day and a very controlled diet."

At the age of 18, Mr Harvey went to Adelaide for a biopsy, which showed the diabetes had sent his kidneys into renal shut down.

"At this time I was very ill but still going to work."

Soon after, he was flown back to Adelaide for surgery to have a tube put in his stomach so he could start dialysis at home.

After three years of being cared for by his mother and his partner, the accountants clerk needed both a new kidney and pancreas - which had to be donated by deceased people.

"I could not do the normal things (like) going to the park. I was just too ill."

His lucky day came earlier this year when he was offered a transplant. Just hours after receiving the phone call he was flown to Sydney's Westmead Hospital.

"I was just in shock, I had a bag packed for months but earlier that week I unpacked it and put everything away," Mr Harvey said.

"My life changed from that moment ... it's been about 10 weeks since my transplant and everything is going well.

"My life is back and I am doing and eating all the things I loved."

Executive director of the RFDS South East section Clyde Thomson said the flight Mr Harvey took with the RFDS may well have saved his life.

"We're happy to help Chris as he is a very motivated employee of ours," Mr Thomson said.

NSW Health lists on its website the easy steps to organ donation and states that you could be a lifesaver for someone.

They encourage people to talk to their doctor, read the information, and most importantly discuss the decision with their family.

People wishing to become organ donors can contact Medicare on 1800 777 203 or go to www2.medicareaustralia.gov.au/pext/registerAodr/Pages/DonorRegistration.jsp.

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