Zaidee Turner helping save lives

By Liz Mellino

Shepparton’s Allan Turner is hoping a new documentary, which aired on SBS last night, will inspire families to talk about and consider organ and tissue donation.

Dying to Live aired nationally on SBS, sharing the stories of everyday Australians waiting to receive life-saving organ transplants.

The story of Mr Turner’s daughter, Zaidee, whose organs were donated after her sudden death at the age of seven was a major focus of the documentary.

‘‘I was on the Today Show in 2015 talking about Zaidee’s opt-out campaign. During that program a documentary maker called Richard Todd was watching and he was looking for his next story to develop into a documentary,’’ Mr Turner said.

‘‘He rang me and said he had watched the show and that talking about Zaidee had inspired him to make this documentary.’’

What eventuated was three years of gathering and filming the stories of patients and their families, which were then compiled into a 90-minute documentary.

The documentary was launched at film festivals in Sydney and Melbourne last year, before being shown nationally in cinemas in November.

‘‘The documentary follows the stories of those waiting for an organ transplant and the donors’ families ... Zaidee’s story plays a major part in this, it is a very powerful and inspiring documentary,’’ Mr Turner said.

‘‘The whole purpose is to inspire discussion and think if you’re in that same situation as Zaidee would you carry through with organ donation to save and improve the lives of others.’’

Kate Hansen’s story is one of many shared in the documentary, highlighting the immense suffering and sheer desperation that comes with needing a double kidney and pancreas transplant.

After seven years, Ms Hansen received her life-saving transplant on the eve of Dying to Live airing on SBS.

‘‘Kate received the call on Tuesday night that she would receive her double transplant; she woke yesterday with a new kidney and pancreas,’’ Mr Turner said.

‘‘Her story shows what the families involved go through during the journey of the transplant; it is not just the individual patients — it affects their family and friends.’’

The airing coincided with DonateLife releasing the organ donation and transplant statistics from last year in Australia.

Australia recorded a major increase in life-saving and life-changing donations following a record rise in donor consent rates in the past year.

‘‘A record 1544 Australians received transplants in 2018, 144 more than the previous year,’’ Ken Wyatt, the minister responsible for the Organ and Tissue Authority, said.

‘‘This means that in the 10 years since the national program started, organ donation has more than doubled, saving almost twice the number of people through transplantation.’’

With about 14000 Australians waiting for a transplant and about 12000 people on kidney dialysis, Mr Wyatt said it was crucial people spoke about donation and registered on the Australian Organ Donor Register.

Mr Turner was pleased to see the work of foundations, similar to Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation, had played a positive role in contributing to last year’s record number of donations.

‘‘I think there is still a lot of hard work to be done, it is a good result, but not a fantastic result ... a fantastic result would be every person on the transplant waiting list to get their transplant,’’ he said.

‘‘People on the waiting list have and will continue to die waiting because we just don’t have enough donors in Australia to cover everybody ... a lot of hard work still has to be done to increase the donation rates and provide more opportunities for people to save the life of someone else.’’