Around 1,600 Australians are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, with a further 12,000 people on dialysis waiting for a new kidney.
At the same time, patients from African, Asian and minority ethnic communities such as those of Greek, Italian, andSpanish background are more likely to need an organ transplant than the rest of the population as they are more susceptible to illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, which may result in organ failure and the need for a transplant.
On average, patients from these ethnic communities will wait at least a year longer for a kidney transplant than patients of Anglo descent due to the lack of suitable organs. Blood and tissue types need to match for a successful transplant, and organs from people from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a close match.
The Australian Government is therefore urging Australian citizens of all ages from multicultural backgrounds to put their good intentions about organ donation into effect by registering and sharing their decision online.
According to Assistant Minister for Health, Ken Wyatt, 69 per cent of Australians said they were willing to donate their organs and tissue after death and yet only 33 per cent of adults had joined the national register.
Meanwhile, all major religions in Australia support organ and tissue donation as the ultimate act of generosity, however some Australians remain unsure about whether their faith permits donation.
“Faith and cultural leaders have been working with the Organ and Tissue Authority to develop rulings in support of organ and tissue donation, together with faith-based and in-language resources, to support their communities in reaching an informed decision,” said Mr Wyatt.
“Registering is very simple and has no downside – and it just might mean the world to someone who needs help to stay alive or live a normal life.”
Mr Wyatt visited the Liver Transplant Unit at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne this week to speak with liver transplant specialists and patients waiting in hope for a life-saving transplant.
“Nine in ten families agreed to organ donation where their loved one was a registered donor,” Mr Whyatt added explaining that this number drops to just five in ten where the deceased was not registered and the family had no prior knowledge.
Increasing rates of organ donation enabled a record 707 Australians to receive life-saving transplants in the first six months of this year while a new annual record of 1,241 organ recipients was also set in 2015.
Not so long ago, two members of the same Greek Australian family received heart transplants after languishing on Greece’s transplant lists.
Kostas Gribilas received the heart of Australian teenager Doujon Zammit who died in Greece while on holiday in 2008.
Kosta’s mother, Michelle Gribilas was faced with the same dire predicament in 2011 when she moved to Australia from Laconia, Greece.
Her heart was operating at 25 per cent capacity.
Mrs Gribilas was keeping up-to-date with her tests, being as cautious as she could to ensure she would be around for her children and grandchildren.
At the age of 55 thanks to the doctors at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital she was able to receive a heart transplant.
Going through such an ordeal, and seeing how it has affected her family, Mrs Gribilas has become an advocate for organ donation urging members of migrant communities, to sign up.
“It’s one of the marvellous things you can do, because you give someone another chance at life,” she told Neos Kosmos in a previous interview with journalist Helen Velissaris.
“Because I come to St Vincent’s every week for a check-up, I see [sick] kids that are 17 or 18 years old and it’s a shame,” she said.
The Greek Orthodox Church, has clarified their stance on the issue.
“Organ and tissue donation transforms the lives of people in need of a transplant. It respects the sanctity of life and enables people to give the ultimate gift of life to others,” Archbishop Stylianos said.
The DonateLife registration brochure and form are available in 18 languages at www.donatelife.gov.au
People who previously registered via a driver’s licence are encouraged to check that their details on the register are current by contacting Medicare on 1800 777 203 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.