Plea for organ donor registrations as numbers drop amid pandemic

Savannah would not be here but for the generosity of an organ donor.

Sunshine Coast University Hospital registered nurse Michelle Wyatt has an unknown stranger to thank for her 17-year-old daughter Savannah’s life, after a severe infection in late 2019 nearly killed her. 

Savannah would not be here but for the generosity of an organ donor. 

Savannah Fretwell was born with cystic fibrosis and struggled through years of failing health, with regular visits to hospital. 

In late 2019 Savannah developed a severe infection in her already deteriorating lungs and was rushed to an Intensive Care Unit at Queensland Children’s Hospital, where she had been receiving care under the Respiratory team. 

She struggled to breathe for eight days, when her lungs failed completely, and she was placed on a ventilator. Given the severity of her condition, she was afforded top priority on the Queensland Lung Transplant Service list and was transplanted in just three days. The six-hour surgery was a success and Savannah is now a new person. 

Michelle is among Sunshine Coast DonateLife supporters rallying behind this week’s annual campaign to maintain organ and tissue donor numbers in Australia, despite the challenging year. 

Nationally, more than 1,700 Australians are waiting for organ transplants, with around 12,000 currently receiving kidney dialysis who may need transplants in future. 

DonateLife Week 2020 was more important than ever because Covid-19 has significantly impacted on the number of Queenslanders registering on the Australian Organ Donor Register this year, DonateLife spokesperson Shona McDonald said. 

“All our community events and public sign-on desks have been suspended,” Shona said. “The public has been naturally focussed on pandemic health messaging and other impacts.” 

While there had been a downturn in new registration numbers, organ donation numbers in Queensland were so far “holding their own”, Shona said. 

Join the organ and tissue donor register 

Registering your decision to become an organ and tissue donor takes only a minute online with a smart phone, tablet or computer at donatelife.gov.au