Unsung Heroes of Compassion

Since getting involved in an exciting global blogging movement called 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, I have been thinking about what makes a great act of compassion. What is perhaps even  the ultimate act of compassion?

However, I’ve concluded that you can’t really apply a measurement scale to compassionate deeds. After all, even a small deed can be a life-changer and a huge effort might ultimately make no difference at all. Besides, if we are being compassionate, we’re not about assessing and measuring good deeds and certainly not running around showing off about our own great deeds doing the whole “look at me! Look at me! routine perfected by Australia’s much loved drama Queens: Kath & Kim.


On the other hand, since we are writing about compassion, I thought our blood donors deserved an extra special mention.

A blood donor and nurse.

A blood donor and nurse.

In 2013 the Australian Blood Service collected 1.32 million lifesaving blood donations. Every week Australia needs over 27,000 blood donations and there are just under 504,000 voluntary unpaid donors. Many of these donors donate like clockwork and it’s part of their routine. Unsung lifesaving heroes, there  are no screams when they see the needle or fainting at the sight of blood or wailing that they’re going to die, they simply roll up their sleeve and get on with the job.

Australian blood donors are unpaid and the only thanks they get is a smile,  a cup of tea and a biscuit.As I said, they are unsung heroes and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. That’s because they have saved my life.

Getting my infusion in the brand new hospital.

Happy Me! Getting my infusion in the brand new hospital and reading a great book!


I have a rampant, systemic auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis which affects my muscles, skin, digestive tract and lungs. After conventional treatments didn’t really work, I received life saving infusions of Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) I received those infusions every three weeks for 5 years and they saved my life by somehow tricking or replacing my faulty immune cells with those of healthy blood donors.

While we’re talking about blood donors, there another very special kind of donor I’d like to mention. These are the family and friends of organ donors who make what can be a very difficult decision when they are going through extremely intense grief and anguish themselves as they lose the person they love, often through an unexpected, tragic accident where they’ve had no warning.  While suffering their own anguished grief, have had the compassion to stop another family from walking in their lead shoes.

Organ donation is also something I have addressed personally. This very same auto-immune disease has also brought the whole issue of organ donation very close to home. as it’s  attacking my lungs, causing fibrosis or scaring. The nature of this disease means that I am probably not a good candidate for an organ transplant and for me this means focusing on saving the lungs I’ve got. So far, so good…I am back in remission.

However, there are so many people on waiting lists where an organ donation means the difference between life and death. That a child still has their mum or dad or that those parents of a very, very sick and dying child, don’t have to say goodbye.

I understand that when you have lost someone close to you, particularly when they are young, that there isn’t anything worse. Words just can not describe that depth of grief or loss. I’ve had a glimpse into that pain and it is anguish. Whenever I’ve been faced with losing my own life and leaving my kids behind, the anguish has been utterly unbearable and I can feel my heart being ripped out of my chest without any form of anaesthetic whatsoever and my soul is screaming, howling completely and utterly inconsolable. While the family’s who have lost someone are going through that grief, they can potentially spare another family that anguish and make an incredible difference to so many, many people.

Kerry, another blogger who is also taking part in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, and her family were spared this anguish when her brother received a donor kidney last year. Both Kerry and her brother live with a rare kidney disease and had received a donor kidney from each of their parents. While Kerry’s kidney from her Dad is still working 18 years later, her brother’s kidney from their mother failed, which meant they were reliant upon a donation from a stranger. Initially, he went back on dialysis until he received a donor kidney from someone who had tragically died in an accident.

Kerry has written a letter to that donor, which comes straight from the heart: http://www.kkherheadache.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/angels/

Cheryl Wright who has received a corneal transplant, quite rightly refers to organ donation as “the ultimate act of compassion”. You can find Cheryl here: http://pluckingofmyheartstrings.com/2015/02/20/the-ultimate-act-of-compassion-1000speak/

Some people cross that bridge and have the courage and compassion to make that choice but most do not and the rate of organ donation remains crushingly low and people die unnecessary deaths.

Here are a few simple facts about organ donation in Australia:

  • One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people.
  • Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes.
  • Around 1,500 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists at any time.
  • To lift donation rates the Australian Government, with State and Territory Governments, has implemented a national reform programme, ‘A World’s Best Practice Approach to Organ and Tissue Donation for Transplantation’.
  • The national reform programme includes actions to increase clinical capacity and capability and to increase community engagement and awareness in relation to organ and tissue donation.
  • The Australian Government funds dedicated doctors and nurses in 72 hospitals to work specifically on organ and tissue donation. These positions are part of the national DonateLife Network which also includes State Medical Directors, hospital-based Donation Specialists and Donor Family Support Coordinators.
  • In 2014, 378 organ donors gave 1,117 Australians a new chance in life.

So as we think about ways of being more compassionate, I’d like ask you to add these to your list:

1) Become a blood donor.

2) Speak to your loved ones about becoming an organ donor and also discuss their wishes so they when the time comes and there are any bits and pieces which aren’t totally fried and pickled, the decision has already been made.

These are two ways where 1000 bloggers could really make a permanent and transformation to our world.

I can’t wait to see where  1000 Voices Speak for Compassion takes us. I know it has certainly changed me!!

Love & best wishes to you all!!







8 thoughts on “Unsung Heroes of Compassion

  1. herheadache

    I am unable to give blood, but I have received it through a blood transfusion.
    My parents give on a regular basis.
    I have not heard of your particular immune disease, but are you aware of Rare Disease Day on Feb 28th?
    I am writing about my brother this year for that. He and I both have had kidney transplants. Mine is still working, from my father, eighteen years later, but my brother lost the one he had from our mother.
    Five years ago that kidney failed and he had to go back on dialysis.
    He got a kidney through organ donation, from a stranger, and it was a whole new experience for our family, so used to live donors.
    I found it highly emotional for me. I wrote a post last summer, thanking the donor and their family left behind to deal with their grief and loss:
    Thanks for writing this post and sharing all those stats on organ donation in Australia. I am in Canada and there is always room for improvement to help save lives, but I understand it is a highly sensitive subject.
    I may need to rely on someone’s total and utter compassion one day myself. Knock on wood my kidney works for years to come though.

  2. jaklumen

    I haven’t donated for a while due to some problems– uncooperative veins being the least of them (I couldn’t donate last time I went, because they couldn’t draw any blood). I’ve got O negative blood, though, so the American Red Cross is after me constantly if I do donate or at least show up.

  3. roweeee Post author

    HI Jaklumen,
    Thank you so much for donating. You never know if your blood is running round inside my veins. I have read conflicting figures on just how many donors go into one bottle of Octagam, the plasma product I was given, but after 5 years, there are a lot of people running around inside my veins…a bit like peak in the city. I have had an absolutely crippling cough for a few months but because I’d been immunised for Whopping Cough, we didn’t consider it. Then, my husband pointed out the blood transfusions. My blood really wasn’t my blood anymore.
    xx Rowena

  4. roweeee Post author

    Hi Kerry,
    Thank you so much for sharing your letter with me. I have added a couple of paragraphs and a link to your letter from my post now. Your first hand experience of what this has meant for your family is a very powerful testimony to people considering organ donation.
    I met a woman who works in promoting organ donation at a party recently and talking to her really I guess stressed its importance. AS emotional as it is to lose someone, especially in the tragic circumstances which really suit organ donation, it is turning a negative into a positive and means that lose wasn’t completely in vain. I will go and check out your post for 1000 voices now. Take care & best wishes, Rowena

  5. Cheryl Wright

    Thank you SO much for the mention. I have been an advocate for organ and tissue donation since I became the recipient of a cornea. For many years I bought into the many misconceptions of donating. It saddens me that every day people die waiting….especially children who haven’t even had a chance to live yet. Donating blood and platelets are important as well. Thank you for writing this post. The more we make people aware the more likely there will be some that decide to become donors. I am sorry that you have to deal with this auto immune disease. I will keep you in my prayers.

  6. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much Cheryl. Keep your eye on that post as I will be adding to it and I actually think the organ recipients could even do a joint post. That would be very powerful and something that could go into print and raise awareness. I come across quite a lot of difficult situations through my blog and I can’t always make a difference but I try and linking people up is a good start. xx Rowena

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