A donor saved my girl

LIFE SAVED: Mum Nena Carroll, with Sarah, five-years-old, who received a liver transplant.
LIFE SAVED: Mum Nena Carroll, with Sarah, five-years-old, who received a liver transplant. Doug Eaton

IT'S a conversation every family is encouraged to have.


"If I die suddenly, and if it's medically possible, I want to be an organ donor."

Families are particularly encouraged to discuss this in the coming week, which is Donate Life week. The aim is to raise the number of Australian organ donors. Donation was not promoted here before 2009, and at 14.9 willing donors per million people, we lag behind Spain where it's 35 per million.

The good news, according to intensive care specialist and Northern Rivers director of organ and tissue donation, Dr Michael Lindley-Jones, is that in the Northern Rivers the count is 18 donors per million.

As he spoke, Dr Lindley-Jones was watching five-year old Sarah Carroll, of Lismore, playing with her twin sister Katrina in the Lismore Base Hospital foyer.

"Sarah's life was saved by someone who made the decision to be a donor," he said. "Without a liver transplant when she was eight months old, she wouldn't be dancing around like she is now.

"It's so important to get people to discuss this, whatever age they are, so the families know their loved ones' wishes.

"After someone has died and donated an organ, the families always see it as one good thing that came out of their loss."

Sarah's mother Nena Carroll, who has five other children, said Sarah's liver cancer (hepatoblastoma) was diagnosed when she was two weeks old.

She was treated with chemotherapy for seven months, but it wasn't working. Sarah needed a transplant.

When an adult liver became available, the operation took all day. Specialist surgeons were flown from Japan to connect the larger veins and arteries to Sarah's tiny ones.

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