Jim McIvor almost died this year, but a liver transplant saved his life

Jim McIvor had less than 48 hours to live when the life-saving news came through that a liver had been found for the critically ill Creswick man.

For months he had existed either on his couch at home or in hospital, sleeping 23 ½ hours a day and staring death in the face.

With his body swollen to twice its normal size from fluid build up, his body was shutting down when a matching donor liver was identified earlier this year.

Fast forward about six months and the 63-year-old is enjoying drastically improved health, weighs half of what he did and is spending precious time with his family.

All thanks to the selfless gift of organ donation from a grieving family.

Sunday is Donate Life Thank You Day and Mr McIvor cannot say thank you enough for his second chance at life.

The liver disease that almost claimed his life had probably started decades ago, but a prescribed medication taken for 15 years totally destroyed his liver function. The critical phase when the symptoms peaked though was only short.

“It destroyed my liver but didn’t destroy my life,” he said.

“To have gotten so sick, so quickly, you have a new appreciation of just how short life can be,” Mr McIvor said.

“I’m just so lucky – it’s an absolute gift.”

Mr McIvor said it took him about three months to feel better after surgery, and about another three months  to get to where he is today.

“That grieving family’s donation has given me a second chance. That’s what donation does – it gives my wife a partner for life, my son a father and my grandchildren a pop.”

Hearing grand-daughter Billie’s voice is something he was never sure he’d get to enjoy.

“My whole focus now is not to talk so much about myself, but to advise people how important organ donation is and how important carers are.”

At any time there are more than 1400 Australians waiting for an organ transplant.

Mr McIvor is one of more than 1184 Australians to have received a life-saving transplant this year thanks to the generosity of more than 424 deceased donors and their families.

Encouraging people to register as organ and tissue donors is something Mr McIvor is passionate about.

“I now have a true understanding of the meaning of life and that is to help others and where possible help them to continue to live. It’s so important.”

Last year, a record 1713 Australians received a life saving transplant thanks to the generosity of 503 deceased and 267 living organ donors and their families.

Another 9000 Australians benefited from tissue donation.

Ballarat DonateLife Nursing Donation Specialist Larna Kennedy said while donor numbers were at a record high, there was more the community could do.

“Each organ goes to the person who most needs it,” Ms Kennedy said.

“We have come a long way, with donor numbers doubling in the eight years since the DonateLife network started, but there is definitely still a lot more we can do.”

GRATEFUL: Jim McIvor is thankful for receiving a second chance at life thanks to a liver transplant that has returned him to health and his family. Picture: Kate Healy

GRATEFUL: Jim McIvor is thankful for receiving a second chance at life thanks to a liver transplant that has returned him to health and his family. Picture: Kate Healy

She thanked not only the families who make the decision to donate their loved one’s organs at a time of immense grief, but the medical teams and others who make organ transplants possible.

“There are more than 100 people involved for every one organ donation to happen, from start to finish,” she said.

Since January, more than 140,000 Australians have joined the Australian Organ Donor Register.

To register, as an organ and tissue donor visit donatelife.gov.au.