Faith column: Gifts of life keep on giving

As a live kidney donor I’ve had 40 years to witness the miracle of transplantation, but never has that miracle seemed more incredible than now, with the added risks to surgery inherent in the world of COVID-19.

In the pandemic, it is important to keep sight of stories of incredible resilience – and care. Credit:

In our shared battle against the pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the personal stories of endurance that were there long before we heard the word coronavirus. The inspirational stories of cancer and survival, of tenacity in the face of disability, of lives changed in split-seconds by freak accidents, of people whose circumstances make every single day a triumph of resilience.

One such story, reported in The Sunday Age (30/8), talks of “a gift of hope from the despair of others”. It tells of the vast team of people involved in enabling a Melbourne woman to receive a life-changing kidney, donated by an anonymous young donor from Western Australia.

The fact organ donation has managed to tick along almost unnoticed behind the scenes of COVID-19 is indeed a miracle. The gifted surgeons with their dedicated medical teams, coordinators and endless others who work tirelessly in the background to make it happen are the invisible heroes.

Over the four decades since I donated a kidney to my sister, with many years as a volunteer for DonateLife (Vic), I’ve had the privilege to develop close friendships with inspirational people whose existence is testament to the sanctity of life and the endurance of the human spirit.

Those who live on transplant waiting lists with hospital bags packed ready for the phone to ring, signalling that their time has finally arrived. The renal patients who survive through the relentless hours, weeks, months and often years hooked up to a dialysis machine. Those waiting for lungs whose every breath is a triumph of the machine keeping them alive. The toddlers born with liver disease who can only look on as other children play.

And behind each transplant lies another story. A story of love from a live donor, or a story of selflessness and extreme generosity from a stranger and a family, often at times of profound grief.

Just as those daily COVID-19 numbers are not just statistics, the organ donation rates are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters whose lives have been changed forever. Now more than ever, we need to shout these stories from the rooftops and find faith in the ultimate good of humanity.

Janine Joseph is a Melbourne writer.

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