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Jonah turns calendar guy to lure more organ donors

By LES WATKINS - North Shore Times | Saturday, 20 January 2007
Images of Jonah Lomu are being used to save lives.

This is thanks to the dogged determination of Whangaparaoa woman Mary England, who's been on dialysis for nearly four years while awaiting a kidney transplant.

She was so horrified by New Zealand's chronic shortage of donors, with the country having the lowest percentage in the developed world, that she helped found the Organ Donation Awareness Trust.

Ms England and fellow trust members have produced a fundraising calendar for 2007 featuring sports personalities who have benefited from transplants.

"I was determined to feature Jonah in the calendar but so many demands are made on him that he was difficult to pin down," says Ms England, who was diagnosed with severe kidney failure when she was 36.

"That's why I stalked him, quite literally, for about two months until, eventually, I managed to talk my way into his home.

"He was surprisingly shy at first but when he realised I was going through the same as he had he could not have been more friendly and helpful."

Rugby legend Lomu stars on the cover of the calendar and also on the page for December.

His message reads: "Donating an organ is the most selfless thing one human being can do for another. It gives you a second chance at life."

Ms England says the shortage of donors in New Zealand is partly because the wishes of would-be donors are vetoed by their families after their death.

A survey of deaths in intensive care units shows 35 families over-rode the wishes of loved ones. A further 35 families had not even been asked by the doctors.

"This is an appalling waste because organs, which could save lives, are left to rot or are burned," says Ms England.

National MP Jackie Blue and former Shore resident Andy Tookey of GiveLife NZ have written a proposed law change banning family members and doctors from overturning a person's expressed wish to be a donor.

"I was pleased that when I tackled Helen Clark in person she promised that such a law would be passed," says Ms England. "That would be a great step to a better balance.

"Spain has about 35 donors per million of population, with the figures in the United States and Britain being 21 and 10.7 respectively.

"This country has only six per million and is right down there with countries such as Iceland and Mexico.

"Few realise that the need for a transplant can come at any age. Twenty percent of those on the waiting list for liver transplants are children aged one to six.

"One donor can be the lifeline for up to 10 people because organs needed include lungs, livers and hearts, as well as skin and corneas."

For further information about organ donation, or to buy a calendar, contact the Organ Donation Awareness Trust, PO Box 24-746, Royal Oak, Auckland. Phone: 021-037-0266 or email: organawareness/@gmail.com.

Courtesy of Stuff - www.stuff.co.nz

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