Byford teenager Angus Hollington knows only too well the importance of bone and tissue donation.
The 15-year-old was spared the trauma of a leg amputation thanks to an anonymous bone donor, whose selfless gift effectively saved Angus’s limb.
At the tender age of 11, Angus was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents, when a 10cm tumour was discovered in his left tibia in 2014.
He endured a harrowing 130 days in hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatment as well as multiple bouts of surgery, including the removal of the cancerous bone. He then received a donor bone from PlusLife to replace the lost bone in his leg.
Now, the Hollington family is sharing their experience in a bid to raise awareness about bone and tissue donation and the important work of PlusLife, WA’s bone and tissue bank, as it prepares to open its new $10 million facility in Midland on March 24.
Angus’ mother Tracy Hollington said many people did not even realise that tissue donation was possible and urged more people to consider registering as donors.
“Most people have absolutely no idea about tissue donation and the unbelievable benefits these donations make to people’s lives,” Mrs Hollington said.
“The generous person who donated the bone to PlusLife, which Angus received has meant that my son will be as physically capable as he would have been had he not had cancer. Because of this, he avoided a leg amputation and will not suffer life-long disabilities.”
Mrs Hollington said her family was extremely thankful for Angus’s bone donation and called on others to consider registering as donors.
“Through its management of bone and tissue, PlusLife makes a very real difference to the lives of people just like Angus. We are very grateful for their work and the hundreds of people each year who decide to donate precious tissue.”
PlusLife managing director Anne Cowie said PlusLife had helped improve thousands of lives through generous donations of Australian tissue. Since starting operations in 1992, PlusLife has provided more than 18,000 grafts to more than 10,000 recipients.
“We hope to be able to help many more people in the future with the opening of our new $10 million facility in Midland, which includes two tissue processing cleanrooms, freezer storage, a tissue testing laboratory and a dedicated research laboratory,” Mrs Cowie said.
“These resources mean we will be able to continue our important work managing bone and tissue donations in WA as we strive to meet growing demand for our services.”
PlusLife, which manages bone and tissue donations in WA, has two donor programs. Living patients having hip replacement surgery can donate the ball part of their hip, which is used in a ground-up form for children with spinal deformities. And, like organ donation, bone, tendons and ligaments can be donated after death with consent from next-of-kin.
Grafts are used for patients undergoing life-changing operations, such as surgery to treat spinal deformities, complex joint surgery and treatments for patients with dental and facial bone loss. In many cases it has saved children diagnosed with cancer the distress of a limb amputation.
Mrs Cowie said there was a need for greater community awareness about bone and tissue donation, which greatly improved outcomes for patients.
“While organ donation has a high community profile and is known as a life-saving gift, many people are not aware that tissue donation is actually possible,” Mrs Cowie said.
“The donation of tissue can have life-changing benefits for patients. One deceased tissue donor has the potential to improve the wellbeing, sight and mobility of up to 60 people.”
To register as a bone, tissue or organ donor, visit www.donorregister.gov.au or via Medicare online.