Griffith University Communications graduate Alana Jones has secured her dream job as Communications Manager for DonateLife, encouraging people to register as an organ or tissue donor.
And she hopes that her story goes some way to ensuring that no other family has to go through what she did.
DonateLife Week’s annual awareness campaign runs this week until August 4.
In this episode of the Griffith University podcast Remarkable Tales, Alana tells how she was a teenager when her Mum died at just 41 years old, after she had waited seven years for a transplant.
Alana went on to complete her studies, and work her way through different government positions, until she landed this role in Melbourne.
She hopes her story can encourage more organ donor registrations.
“Organ donation, it’s been something that’s been in my life pretty much forever, since I was really little,” Alana says.
“My Mum was waiting for a heart and kidney transplant and sadly she didn’t get her transplant. She passed away when I was 13. From the time I was seven years old, she was on dialysis and I pretty much only remember her being sick.
“When I was younger I used to get quite angry about the fact that there wasn’t enough organ donors and used to say things like, “If more people were organ donors, then I wouldn’t have lost my Mum,” which as a kid was quite hard to grapple with.
“As I grew up, I started to think `What can I do that could actually make a difference?’, and I was really fortunate that through the networks I’d formed in previous jobs, when this job came up, someone flagged it with me and it’s just the most perfect role for me.”
Alana coordinates all the awareness raising campaigns about organ donation, which on any given day could involve working with nurses and doctors caring for patients undergoing surgery, to meeting media or mourning families.
DonateLife Week also happens to fall on Alana’s mother’s birthday, creating a bittersweet synergy between her personal bereavement, professional success and passion to help others.
Alana says she loves her work, as it hopefully goes some way to reducing the number of families who lose a loved one while they are on the organ donor waiting list.
“I take a lot comfort in the fact that we’ve come such a long way as a country, in terms of organ and tissue donors,” she says.
“Since my Mum passed away, the year that she died there were only about 200 kidney transplants that happened in Australia that year. These days there’s over 1000 every year. It’s gone up an awful lot.
“And there’s also been a lot of work that’s gone into it by the DonateLife staff, and last year in Victoria for example, we had 193 organ donors. Ten years ago that’s what we had in the whole country.
“It’s a real change, so I think that if my Mum were going through what she went through today, she probably would have gotten a transplant. It’s a completely different world and we’re seeing less and less people end up in that kind of situation, and more people whose lives are being saved.”
While the majority of Australians believe it’s important to be an organ and tissue donor, Alana says only a few take the necessary steps to register.
“I think people used to be quite afraid of talking about organ donation and now it’s something that’s a lot more widely accepted,” she says.
“If you register and you talk to your family early on, no-one is expecting that this is going to happen anytime soon. If you decide now, then you don’t have to think about it again. It’s said and forget. You tell your family about it and then they know and then if something were to happen, they don’t have to decide for you. You decided for yourself.”
This year the campaign is focussing on the stories of survivors.
“For us it’s really about telling beautiful stories of recipients who have had their life saved,” she says.
“We’ve got a couple of beautiful little kids up on our posters. They actually wouldn’t be alive today if they didn’t get an organ donation.
“The other thing that’s really important for us at DonateLife is to represent donor families and to try and tell those stories, as well, so the stories of people who’ve lost someone, always in very tragic and unexpected circumstances, and they’ve made the decision at that point to think about other people and donate their organs.”
She says Griffith University helped her find her passion in life.
“It’s so rewarding being able to help to contribute to something to stop families from having to go through what I went through,” Alana says.
“I don’t have it in me to be a nurse or a doctor. I wish I could, but unfortunately that’s just not me.
“I figure if I can use what I’m good at, which is writing and influencing people, and bringing all the other pieces together to do something that contributes to that in some little way, then hopefully that helps someone at some point.”