Parents should never experience having to bury their child as my wife Jackie and I were sadly faced with in early 2013. It has been over three years now and the journey has been hard, you can never really quite fill the void you experience with the loss of a child.
Our son Kyall was a popular 22 year-old apprentice electrician when he was fatally injured in a car accident on 20 January 2013. See Canberra Times story http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/tragic-death-helped-improve-quality-of-life-for-many-20140214-32rt6.html
Six months prior to his accident he spoke to us about his desire to donate his organs in the event of his death.
We respected his wishes but never dreamt that we would still be around to honour those wishes. We have often been asked whether it was a difficult decision to make at the time we were told he was slowly passing away. It wasn’t as if we knew that we were giving him his final wish. The hardest decision for us was to accept that he was gone.
It is unbelievable to think that only 1% of the Australian population will die in a way that enables organ donation to occur. You must already be in Intensive Care or an Emergency Department for organ donation to be an option. Through our overwhelming tragedy we were given the rare opportunity and had no hesitation to respect Kyall’s wish to be an organ and tissue donor.
The Canberra Hospital Intensive Care doctors and nurses provided Kyall and our family respect, dignity and the best care available. The Donation Specialist Nurses from DonateLife ACT discussed with us the organ and tissue donation process and then coordinated the multi-state retrieval process.
Through the gift of his many organs donated taken on Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 2pm in Canberra, Kyall gave the gift of life to eight recipients. Their ages ranged from a six year-old child to a 70 year-old woman. Kyall’s heart went to a middle aged man, his lungs to another and his liver was shared to a middle-aged man and a six year-old child received a small section of his liver. His kidneys and pancreas went to a middle-aged woman. A 30 year-old woman received one cornea and the other cornea went to a 70 year-old woman who is now able to drive again and read to children in school.
Kyall always had a big smile that stretched across his face, which lit up a room together with his enthusiasm, optimism and infectious friendly nature. He lived a full life for his short 22 years and loved to travel, read and party and be with his many friends and family. The title of his personal book of life written in bold letters was ‘Keep Calm and Party Hard!’
Kyall was very outgoing and well loved. He left behind many close friends from his family, school, football team, work and social life. We had no concept of how many lives Kyall had impacted until his funeral. Over 1000 family and friends attended to say goodbye. Kyall had a great love of people and enjoyed going out. He went to Belconnen High and Hawker College, playing for Wests Rugby and West Belconnen Leagues Club.
On 6 September 2013 we attended his gravesite with sixty of his family and closest friends to celebrate his 23rd birthday. We had a quiet drink, ate birthday cake and then released green balloons in his memory.
Kyall was the second youngest of our four children, our eldest son Aaron has continued his work to increase awareness of organ donation. Aaron has joined the board of Gift of Life Incorporated, who are the peak body for organ donor awareness in the ACT and surrounding district.
At the first Brumbies (Rugby) game of the season at Canberra Stadium on 22 February 2014, the Canberra Brumbies chose the Gift of Life as their charity on behalf of Kyall.
During the year our son died, the Organ and Tissue Authority reported that there were six donors in the ACT, which resulted in 25 organs transplanted to 23 recipients. Nationwide, it was a record year for organ donation, with 391 donors.
We have been overwhelmed by letters of thanks and gratitude from Kyall’s thankful recipients and their families. It gives us great comfort knowing that these people have had the chance to live on through Kyall’s precious gifts. It is our wish that people follow Kyall’s example and register to become an organ and tissue donors. In a time of immense grief, our decision was made easier as we already knew our son’s wish, it is so important that if you register, that you talk to your family and friends about your organ and tissue decision.