I put up a post about ABC announcer Mark Colvin’s kidney transplate in March last year (2013), and though his operation is well over and he’s back on ABC Radio National’s PM program, I’m prompted to revisit the story after reading two recent and related reports.
The first was about a ‘domino donation’ of kidneys that depended on one altruistic Australian donor to start off the synchronised transplants. This heartwarming chain of organ donations was Australia’s first such venture, echoing a similar 12-patient procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA, in February 2009. The story can be read here:
The second reason to revisit my post was a report of a sharp increase in patients who return home from surgery with hidden cargo — surgical instruments secreted in their innards that turn them into medical ‘mules’. My hope was that Mark (@Colvinius on Twitter) would return to his nightly news program unencumbered by such unintended donations. Patients who feel sufficiently cut up about it are demanding metal detectors at hospital exits.
Back on 3 March 2013 I read this ABC blog about Mark’s operation:
and hopped onto WordPress to report that something pretty momentous had happened in ABC Radioland. On ABC 774 Radio’s ‘Drive’ program that day, Erin Mathews blogged:
“You know Mark Colvin as the legendary presenter of ABC Radio’s current affairs program, PM. You may also know his authoritative social media voice as the prolific tweeter @Colvinius.
“What you might not know is that the ABC journalist has battled severe illness since 1994, when he was a foreign correspondent covering the Rwandan refugee crisis. For years he’s lived with deteriorating kidney function, bound to regular dialysis – until now. Thanks to a living donor and very generous friend, Mark has received a life-saving kidney transplant. Speaking from his hospital bed, he shared his story with Rafael Epstein.
Mark Colvin’s transplant operation was the subject of a Four Corners documentary on Monday, 8 April on ABC TV1 at 8.30pm.
Hear in this remarkably frank interview how Colvin arrived at the difficult decision to accept a kidney from a living donor: http://blogs.abc.net.au/files/mark-colvin-iv.mp3o
Personally, as a blood donor past the 110 mark (donations, that is, not age) I consider it the best type of investment anyone could ever make. For less than an hour four times a year you get a health check, a chance to lean back and meditate or read a magazine, choose a free lunch and feel pretty good that three more recipients of that magic fluid would not be alive without it.
I heard with astonishment Mark Colvin’s statement that the average wait for a donated kidney was seven years — and that he would not have survived the wait. Nowhere near.
It just shows how muddled our thinking is when most people accept blood donations and applaud the donors yet find it hard to consider the recycling of organs. Nearly everyone on earth has two kidneys and a good number of those tiny miracles will still be in working order at their owners’ inevitable demise.
Why are so few doing as Mark, and presumably thousands before him, have suggested: talking with their loved ones about donating their kidneys or anything that works?
Rational and compassionate people see the value of holding a family conference to formulate a decision that will be binding on all of them. The earlier this is done, the easier it is. The last thing a patient hoping to go home soon wants to hear is ‘What shall we do about your organs?’ And that is half the problem, so do it early if you’re going to do it at all.
I cannot imagine the disappointment of a person on dialysis who is being prepared to receive a life-saving kidney when the approval took too long. A family’s lack of preparation for that sadly necessary conversation with the surgeons after a person’s death is often the only reason that an organ cannot be used, despite the deceased person’s own intention. The decision has to be made quickly, before the organ deteriorates.
It would be some indication of human progress if we could swap the current celebrity cachet of having had a convict in one’s pedigree (I don’t, so I’m boring) for the pride of being related to an organ donor. For what it’s worth, those of my relatives who will, I hope, outlive me already know they have that opportunity.
Medical science moves on, and oh sure, there’s a fibreglass leg, a titanium hip or two, a few false teeth and the odd metal pin around our (bionically) extended family, but it’s a wondrous fact that when it comes to a matter of life and death, one little kidney can trump the lot. Go on — sign up and get a life.