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New memorial at St George Hospital pays tribute to organ donors during DonateLife Week

A new memorial paying tribute to organ and tissue donors has been unveiled at St George Hospital to mark DonateLife Week (July 26-August 2).

The memorial, commissioned by the NSW Organ & Tissue Donation Service (part of the DonateLife network), takes the form of a large window decal and was created by indigenous artist Susan Grant.

The finished work, depicting "growth and new life," is located in St George Hospital's acute services building and was unveiled during a ceremony yesterday, Monday.

A South Eastern Sydney Local Health District spokeswoman said the memorial was the first at the hospital to honour organ and tissue donors.

"The memorial aims to commemorate and remember those who have passed away at the hospital and generously given life through organ and tissue donation," she said.

The event was attended by the NSW Organ & Tissue Donation Service's donation specialist nurse based at St George Hospital, Lisa O'Reilly, as well as organ recipient PatriciaScheetz.

Ms Scheetz, of Bangor, suffered type 1 diabetes from childhood, which eventually caused her kidneys to fail.

She relied on kidney dialysis for four hours a day, four times a week to keep her alive prior to receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant.

Also there was Leah Barthel, whose mother Chris Barthel became an organ and tissue donor in 2011 after she suffered a brain aneurysm.

The much-loved primary school teacher at Star of the Sea Miranda had long advocated for organ donation.

"My mother was always passionate about it. She had talked to me about it from the age of 10," Ms Barthel said.

"My dad was killed in a car accident. He was 24 when he died and my mum was a widow at 23.

"It was such a waste and she wanted to spare other people that."

When doctors told Ms Barthel that nothing could be done to save her mother, it was she who brought up organ donation.

She said knowing her mother's wishes when she was battling shock and grief made it easier for her to make the final decision.

"You are not in a logical state but I had no doubt at all," she said.

"Knowing my mother's wishes gave me the gift of clarity."

Ms Barthel shared some beautiful final moments with her mother - including making a copy of her hand prints with the help of a donation specialist nurse - before the machines were switched off - something now possible with some organ and tissue donations.

Her lungs were donated to a woman in her 20s, while two other women each received one of her kidneys. Other tissue was also donated.

Ms Barthel said a letter she later received from the lung transplant recipient came at a very difficult time in her life - and she had no doubt it was a message from her mother.

"The first birthday without my Mum was my 40th and I was not in a good place. I was struggling because I had also lost my dad and had no siblings," she said.

"Then I got a letter from the organ recipient about a week and a half later. She said her children were 'eternally grateful that I am here to love and protect them, especially because they had already lost their father'," she said.

"I took it as a message from my mother."

Time to talk about donation 

DonateLife Week raises awareness of organ and tissue donation and encourages people to register as donors and talk to their families about their wishes.

This year, the NSW Organ & Tissue Donation Service is particularly encouraging young people to talk about becoming an organ donor as figures show they are less likely to be on the register.

"Young Aussies, and in particular young men, are the least likely to have registered as donors, with only 15 per cent of people aged 16 to 35 registered," a spokeswoman said.

"This DonateLife Week, our donation specialists encourage everybody, especially young people, to register and talk to their loved ones about organ donation."

She said just over half of Sutherland Shire's residents aged 16 and over are registered donors - which is better than the national average of one in three.

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