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Boy's death offers life to others


By Saskia Konynenburg The mother of a boy killed in Waipu five years ago, is telling her son's story to try to lift New Zealand's low organ donation rate.

In November 2002, Zachary Hide died after being hit by a car and was buried six days short of his eighth birthday. He became one of a few to join 38 people who donated organs that year.

Tomorrow Zachary's family will mark the fifth anniversary of his death with a headstone unveiling at Maunu Cemetery that coincides with the launch of the Organ Donation NZ website, which features Zachary's story.

"I am so proud of Zachary. I love him dearly and he is with us every day.

Telling his story is my way of honouring him and keeping him with me," said his mother, Lydia Wilkinson.

She and Zachary's father, David, made the decision to donate their son's organs, something she said her son would have wanted.

"About a month before Zachary's accident I had a conversation with him about the word donor on my driving licence. When the finer details were explained he said he thought it would be a very nice thing to do if you didn't need your body any more," said Lydia.

"When the organ donation co-ordinator asked me about it, I didn't hesitate. We knew it was our little boy's choice and we would gift the parts of his body he had no use for any more."

Lydia said Zachary's organs saved three lives and prolonged the life of another. One kidney went to a 12-year-old boy, the other to a middle-aged woman and his liver went to a six-month-old baby boy. They are still alive today. His heart was donated to a 18-month-old girl who died three years later, but Lydia said she was still glad Zachary had helped prolong her life. "When Zachary died we knew organ donation was the right thing to do. Over the years it has been fabulous to hear through letters how Zachary's gift changed lives."

New Zealand has the lowest organ donor rate in the Western world - seven organ donors per million people.

Last year there were just 25 organ donors in New Zealand, the lowest rate in 13 years and down from an average of 40 donors in 2005. This year is looking more hopeful with 36 donations so far. Those will help a few of the 400 New Zealanders waiting for organs to become available and many more waiting for the transplanting of corneas, heart valves, bone or skin.

Andy Tookey, spokesman for GiveLife NZ, was co-author of the Human Tissue (Organ Donation) bill recently rejected by Parliament.

The bill was to create a legally binding organ donor register and accompanying public awareness campaign.

He said about one-and-a-half million New Zealanders had "donor" on their driver licences but it ultimately came down to the family of the deceased to make the decision.

"If a person wants to be an organ donator he or she must tell family because doctors don't check driving licences," said Mr Tookey. "Death is a terrible time for the family and the bill was designed to save more lives and prevent more people from going through loss. Some good can come out of tragic circumstances."

Mr Tookey's daughter Katie has a rare liver condition that means she will eventually go on to a waiting list for a liver transplant.

Organ donation co-ordinator, Janice Langlands, said the new Organ Donation NZ website would give people information and encourage people to talk to their families about what they want. "Zachary's story and other people who have donated organs or been recipients feature on the website. We really acknowledge the generous gift from families of organ donators," said Ms Langlands.

Courtesy of the Northern Advocate


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