Today’s post is the third and final part of the interview with Donation Specialist Nursing Coordinator Leanne McEvoy and Intensive Care Physician Doctor Cameron Knott.
Leanne and Cameron are involved in the beginning of the organ donation process, and are based at the Austin Hospital, where my husband had his liver transplant.
If you missed the first and second part of this interview, click here to catch up!
Otherwise, make yourself comfortable and read on…..
SARAH – so what is the best part of this job?
LM – It’s rewarding but the biggest thing is being able to fulfil someone’s last wish, and subsequently it means that other lives are saved. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of that. Even if the donation isn’t successful, we have gone through everything to try and fulfil their wish, so I still feel privileged to be part of that team.
And we have got a fantastic team at Austin!
SARAH – And you Cameron, the same sort of thing?
CK – I agree. In some ways I am slightly different, but I am always independent of the ICU treating team so I am on a different roster when I am doing this. This means I can concentrate on supporting the family. I think the most important thing for my job is that we are not just working in the clinical role. We also work at the hospital level to raise donation awareness, but to also work out what are the potential barriers in a hospital for a successful donation.
We work at a hospital level as well, and we do a lot of background work in education and process planning.
Effectively for me, the clinical day is the day where all the things we have been doing in the background over months, comes into play. It’s a way of seeing the team in action. Watching this highly co-ordinated and skilled team from across the hospital taking care of someone who has given an amazing gift is amazing.
And even if a person has chosen not to be an organ donor, we still have given them the best End of Life care we can give them. To me, that’s the most important thing, it’s tailored for that person.
My point of view is I am not required to, nor am I going to, pester someone into saying ‘yes’. My role is to give them information so they can make the best informed decision on behalf of their loved one. And I will respect whatever they decide as long as they have had the best opportunity to get everything they need to make the decision that is right for them.
LM – A decision that is right for them is one where they don’t think or feel months or years down the track, “why wasn’t I told that?”
CK – We have also got to the point where anyone going through an End of Life Care process, no matter what age, we will think about donation. If it’s not possible for them for medical reasons, we will say so, as it is important for them to know that it has been discussed in case they have any questions later.
SARAH – It must be an added part of the grief for families if they say yes to donation, for something to stop it from happening?
CK – It can be disappointing. We spend time with families saying it may not go ahead so it is part of that process.
SARAH- Because it must be a real emotional roller coaster
LM – I remember my first case in that situation and it was a patient who was donating his kidneys, and it all went ahead and went into theatre, and then they found a small tumour on the kidney. This is something that happens very rarely and no tests prior to surgery could have picked this up. Unfortunately this person couldn’t donate and we had to go and tell this beautiful family. There response was incredibly positive and pragmatic…they said it was great that the person didn’t have to suffer with a long journey of cancer, the way he died was sudden and he would not have known anything. Families are amazing.
CK – We have had a mother of a donor speak at a presentation and it really is one of the most amazing stories to sit and listen to the roller coaster. And that the fact that this person comes back almost year on year, to give a similar presentation at different forums, to explain where she is in her process of understanding her son’s gift. And all the emotional grappling that goes on with it.
And in the end, she says it was the right decision but she is still processing it.
We think of donation as a process. DonateLife will also support donor families afterwards. They keep a lot of follow up with them, they make sure they are coping all right; they are given support on top of the usual, mainly because of the issues specific to organ donation processes associated with that person’s death.
We also have had situations where people who have received a donation, are in a situation where they are becoming donors. So they can now give the gift to someone else of a different organ.
LM – If being an organ donor is something you want to do, even if you are a smoker, drinker…tell your family. In the rare circumstance it may be possible – and remember only about 1% of all deaths in hospitals are in a situation where donation is possible – there is a specialist donation team that will look and see what can be donated. It may just be your corneas…but that will restore someone’s sight!
You are three to four times more likely to need a transplant in your life, then ever to be in the situation to be a donor
JAS – I find it hard to comprehend that a family in that situation to overrule you being a donor.
LM – You know we have never had a family say no because it is their last dying wish.
The only time we had someone overrule the Australian Organ Donor Register was with someone who had registered as a “No” many years ago. The closest relative said that they only had been talking about it recently and the person wanted to be donor…and he became one.
CK – Another thing we have learned along the way is if you don’t spend the time to ask, and explore, you will never know. I am unendingly surprised by people’s generosity at a very difficult point in their life. It is quite phenomenal. And I think sometimes we, as the medical team, sometimes do take decisions away from the families, which is what a lot of us don’t want to do. It is an uncomfortable conversation and everyone is trying to do their best. I think sometimes it’s worth going that little extra step just to find out.
LM – on a few different occasions we have invited a family’s cultural and spiritual leaders into the hospital to be involved with the decision making if it helps them make the right decision for them and their beliefs.
CK – And as with anything, your religion is how you practice your faith, so people interpret things in different ways, and we respect whichever way you interpret it. We want to give you information on what’s possible. If it fits, it fits. If it doesn’t, that’s fine.
SARAH – Thank you so much for your time today! It’s been absolutely fascinating!
I would like to finish off with a quick quiz “Five in Five”…
What football teams do you support?
CK – Geelong
LM – Fitzroy….now Brisbane
SARAH – Morning or Night Person?
CK – night
LM – night…but I have swap over as my son swims at a national level and I have to be up at 4.55 in the morning!
SARAH – Coast or Country?
CK – Coast
LM – I love a bushwalk but I love the coast
SARAH – Favourite Colour?
CK – Green
LM – Red
SARAH – Tea or coffee?
CK – Coffee
LM – Coffee until today…tea because of you!
Jas and I would like to sincerely thank Leanne and Cameron for sharing their insights about organ donation with us.
I hope you have found the interview as interesting and informative as we did!
If you have any questions, queries, or would just like to share your story, please don’t hesitate to contact me or comment below!