WHEN 62-year-old David Murphy goes to bed at night, he usually has just one thing on his mind.
It’s also on his mind when he wakes in the middle of the night, and several times during the day.
Like 1400 other Australians on the organ transplant waiting list, David hopes that any day now, he’ll get the phone call that could change his life.
About eight years ago, after a routine blood test to check his cholesterol levels, the father-of-four was given the shocking news that he had a polycystic kidney disease, and would need dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant to survive.
His life changed instantly.
For the first few years, David was able to self-administer home dialysis, where the blood is artificially “cleaned” of toxins by a machine that does the work of the kidneys, every day for 11 hours.
But for the past six months, because of infections and other complications, he has to be hooked up to machines at Sale Hospital for five hours at a time, three days a week.
It affects the hours he can work, the hours he can spend with family and friends, and the hours he can do things that others take for granted.
While he has a healthy, philosophical approach to his situation, he knows he has hold on to the hope that a suitable donor will eventually be found to free him from the gruelling routine, and give him a better chance at a “normal” life.
“I guess it was a shock back then, because other than being quite tired and having high blood pressure, I thought I was healthy and certainly wasn’t expecting that diagnosis,” he said.
“I’ve come to accept it, and the dialysis as just part of my life now.
“I just know that I’m still alive and awake.”
The Murphy family has had to make many adjustments to this new life over the years.
Going on holidays, while still possible, usually means going somewhere not more than four hours drive from Melbourne, in case the donation call comes.
They also share the labour-intensive tasks, such as chopping the wood, that David would have previously been in charge of.
With reduced energy, strength and free time, David tries to lead as normal a life as possible, and feels lucky to have the strong support of his family, particularly wife Jill, loved ones and the community.
“It’s been hard on the family at times,” he said.
“They see me struggle not being able to do certain things, but they are supportive.”
His children, and even friends, have put their hands up willingly to give David a kidney, but none have so far been compatible, and David is unsure if he’d even put a loved one through the uncertainty of major surgery.
Doctors have told David, who has a rare blood type, he could expect to wait up to nine years for a suitable donor, but until there is greater awareness of organ donation, and the importance of being on the register, there is little choice for those waiting.
In the meantime, he takes a multitude of tablets daily, and has suffered a hernia, cysts, skin disorders and other ailments all related to failing kidneys and the necessary treatment.
His scarred arms bear the war wounds of daily injections and fragile skin, but because he is a non-drinker and keeps healthy, once a donor is found, doctors have told him his chances of good health in the future are excellent.
There are about 11,000 people currently on dialysis around the country, with most counting on the generosity of a donor willing to give the gift of life.
During DonateLife Week, from Sunday, July 29, to this Sunday, August 5, David wanted to tell his story to increase awareness of the need for people to sign up to the Australian Organ Donor Register.
“I think a lot of people don’t like to think about it, because they connect the idea of donating with dying, and that’s what stops them registering,” he said.
“It’s not that they don’t like the idea of donating, it’s just that they don’t want to think about it.”
He said it was also important that anyone thinking of donating discussed the idea with family, as the donation could be, and sometimes was, refused by loved ones at the crucial moment if they were not aware of patients’ wishes.
“I’d really like to see an automatic national register that allows people to ‘opt out’ of organ donation, rather than opt in, because I believe more people would happily donate that way,” he said.
“It’s done in other countries and works well.”
Australia’s national awareness week is dedicated to promoting organ and tissue donation and is led by the Organ and Tissue Authority in partnership with DonateLife agencies in every state and territory and other key stakeholders across Australia.
DonateLife Week aims to inspire all Australians to make a real difference to the lives of others by registering and telling their families they want to be a donor.
Last year, 1675 Australians received a lifesaving transplant thanks to the generosity of 510 deceased and 273 living donors and their families.
An additional 9600 Australians benefited from eye and tissue transplants.
To register or find out more, visit the donatelife.gov.au.