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Donate and spread the word to save a life

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Organ donation was a topic Brian Tucker had never considered until a severe illness almost took away his chance to watch his six grandchildren grow up.

Seven years ago, the North Geelong resident was diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis, a life-threatening form of fatty liver disease that eventually left him struggling to even get out of his chair.

After five years of different treatments and managing the symptoms with Barwon Health specialists, Brian was added to the Austin Hospital’s transplant list for a new liver.

As he waited another year, his health continued to decline. Brian was in and out of medical care constantly, becoming a regular patient and a familiar face in multiple departments and wards of University Hospital Geelong.

“I learnt most of the paramedics by first name,” he said.

“My stomach and lung would fill up with fluid that would need to get tapped for a drain. One time they took five litres out of my lung and I’ve never felt such relief.

“You have your days when you think ‘I might not be here next week’.

“There were many times I wasn’t sure how much time I had left. I just wanted to be around for the six grandkids, to see them grow up.

“There were a lot of ups and downs, but I had a lot of back-up from my family and the Barwon Health staff who became like family over seven years.

“The nurses became like my daughters, and the doctors were fantastic too. Whatever they told me to do, I did.

“In November 2017, they said they had a liver and they got me all prepared, but the liver turned out to be no good.

“Two months later, I was in hospital for another tap and I was really crook when I got a phone call and they said, ‘Guess what, we’ve found liver’.”

The next morning, Brian was at the Austin Hospital for his transplant from an anonymous donor. He woke up two days later feeling completely changed.

“Straight away, I felt the difference,” he said.

“With the new liver I can walk, I’m driving again, and it’s just those simple things that you took for granted.

“The hardest part was that someone had to lose their life for me to survive. I know that was his wish, but I’m just so grateful. I’ve got to look after it for him too.”

Brian has returned to Barwon Health to thank staff for their care, and is happily enjoying life with family and friends again, but he said organ donation had become an important topic of discussion in his social circle.

“People need to have the conversations with their close friends and family, because you just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he said.

More than 1400 Australians are today waiting for a life-saving or life-transforming transplant. 

For DonateLife Week, you can discuss your decision with family and friends, and register at if you are willing to save lives by becoming an organ and tissue donor.

Only one in three Australians have joined the Australian Organ Donor Register, even though 81 per cent believe registration of donation decisions is important.

Nine in ten families agree to donation proceeding when the deceased is a registered organ donor, but this figure drops to just 40 per cent when the deceased was not registered and the family had no prior knowledge.