By Larissa Romensky.
The mother of a young boy who changed the lives of 16 people after his organs were donated says it is vital family members have a conversation about the issue.
Lisa Gunders’ son Oshi Cahders, 7, died in an accident more than a year ago.
She described him as a vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, creative little man “who had a will on him to conquer the most stubborn parts of anyone”.
“He was an amazing person and I was so looking forward to seeing the little man turn into big man,” she said.
The energetic Oshi was with his father one afternoon setting up a toy stall on the side of the road during an annual hot rod festival in central Victoria when his fate was decided.
“Oshi was excited,” Ms Gunders said.
He needed his calculator so was escorted across the road back to the house. He knew not to cross the road without an adult.
“He just ran, he was very impulsive, and he ran at the wrong time and he was hit by a car,” Ms Gunders said.
Paramedics brought him back to life but the family was told he would never wake up.
It was while at the Royal Children’s Hospital that Ms Gunders saw a plaque on the wall for Zaidee Turner, Victoria’s youngest organ donor who saved seven lives after dying from an aneurysm in 2004.
Even though organ donation had not been discussed with Oshi, both parents were on the organ donor list.
“I was in shock at the time and it’s very hard to get thoughts together … Oshi’s father and I said basically we need to do this, this is the right thing to do,” Ms Gunders said.
“He would have absolutely been 100 per cent sure about giving the gift he did, because he was extremely generous and would have loved the idea of it even being possible to do so.”
Australia’s organ donation rates remain low.
According to DonateLife Victoria, there was an 8 per cent increase in organ donors in Victoria in 2015 compared to the previous year.
A total of 126 Victorians donated their organs after death, up from 117.
But Australia’s organ donation still remains low compared to other developed nations, ranked 22nd according to an independent review.
Nationally there were 18.3 donors per million in 2015.
DonateLife Victoria state medical director Dr D’Costa said at any given time there were about 1600 people on the waiting list.
“Supply is not meeting demand,” he said. “We need to do more.”
Zaidee’s father Allan Turner is calling for Australia to adopt an opt-out system whereby everyone is a default organ donor unless they choose not to be.
This model has been adopted in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Singapore.
A study has shown countries that introduced presumed consent lifted their organ donor rates.
Dr D’Costa said the study was a retrospective review that showed an association but not necessarily causation between the opt-out system.
“I suspect there are a lot of other factors at play in those countries that have led to higher donation rates,” he said.
The all-important conversation.
Ms Gunders said it was a conversation that had to happen between families.
“Not in the time of some tragic accident happening because you’re not thinking straight,” she said.
“People need to know what your intentions are so they can honour that — if, God forbid, something awful did happen.”
The challenges are further exacerbated by the slim probability of having people in the right situations.
“It’s only one per cent of deaths in hospitals that occur in medical circumstances where donations are possible,” Dr D’Costa said.
The conversation with family is even more crucial because the rights of the deceased are not legally binding, and are ultimately determined by the next of kin.
While Dr D’Costa said it was usually only in exceptional situations that family override the wishes of an organ donor, it still happened.
“Ninety-one per cent of families honour the wishes of the deceased,” he said.
Oshi the hero.
The process of coordinating compatible recipients with Oshi’s blood type took three days.
“To be able to see him, spend time with him even though he wasn’t conscious, family from all over Australia came to visit and say goodbye, it was a blessing really,” Ms Gunders said.
Oshi’s death has changed the lives of 16 people, including an 11-year-old girl who was the recipient of his lungs.
Her gratitude was expressed in a poem she wrote describing Oshi as a hero. In it each word was underlined by a different colour of the rainbow.
“We actually had a rainbow for Oshi’s funeral so I have this kind of idea that he was impacting on that. It was very special to receive,” Ms Gunders said.
More information about Organ Donation is available at the Australian Government’s DonateLife website.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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