A letter to my organ donor

To my organ donor,

You don’t know me but my name is Jake, I’m 13 years old and my life was saved because of you.

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with a condition called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. This is a genetic disorder that mainly affects the lungs, but a small percentage of people with this condition can also get liver disease. Unfortunately I was part of that small per cent and I was told that I would probably need a liver transplant in about eight -10 years.

I was well for about eight years then in 2018, my doctor said that my regular tests weren’t looking so good and it was time to go for a transplant assessment. I had to go to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead because they don’t do paediatric liver transplants in Perth and I spent the week having all sorts of tests as well as meetings with the doctors, nurses and surgeons over there.

I didn’t really understand much about organ donation back then and I was a bit shocked to learn that donor livers usually come from deceased people (because you don’t have one to spare like you do with your kidneys) but I did know that it was what I needed to help me get better.

I was one of the very lucky ones with my transplant because I was only on the list for about three months before they found my perfect liver. I was so happy and grateful to you and your family for helping to save my life.

After my transplant, I felt a million times better! I have so much more energy now, I don’t have bloody noses all the time, my tummy doesn’t hurt like it used to, I can eat all sorts of food, my eyes aren’t yellow anymore and I don’t have bruises all over me. I also get to play sport with my friends and don’t miss out on things like I used to.

Something really cool happened during my operation too – I became the 2000th person in Australia to receive a liver transplant! That was pretty special because unfortunately they only get to do about 300 liver transplants per year, so it’s taken a long time to get to 2000. I’m hoping that the 3000th won’t take as long to come around.

I am so grateful to you and your family for giving me a new liver and helping me get better. It has changed my life! I will always remember you and the gift of life you gave me.

To everyone else reading this, I would encourage all of you to talk about organ donation so we can help even more people like me. You don’t need your organs when you die, but other people do, including kids.

By becoming an organ donor you get to save other people’s lives and that’s a very, very special thing to be able to do. So it’s very important to talk to your family about your wishes and to sign up to be an organ donor online so more people can live longer and healthier lives.

To register your decision, visit donatelife.gov.au

The Children's Hospital at Westmead is the paediatric arm of the Australian National Liver Transplant Unit. This pioneering unit is based at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and also comprises of Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney.