CELEBRATING LIFE: John and Kate Willis with their daughter Adaline. Ms Willis was a double lung transplant recipient at the age of 25.
CELEBRATING LIFE: John and Kate Willis with their daughter Adaline. Ms Willis was a double lung transplant recipient at the age of 25. Allan Reinikka

Organ donation brings family precious gift

ADALINE Willis is the sweetest reminder that becoming an organ donor can change the lives of many.

Her mum Kate Willis was just 25 when she received a double lung transplant.

By the time she made the life-changing decision to try for a transplant in 2006, Ms Willis was almost living in the hospital and using oxygen full-time due to cystic fibrosis.

The genetic condition causes serious lung infections which permanently damage the tissue, and can trigger diabetes and problems with the pancreas and liver.

After a year of waiting for a successful transplant operation, Ms Willis went on to claim gold and silver medals at the World Transplant Games in Sweden in 2011 and set a world record for the 50m backstroke.

Her latest triumph though, is her daughter Adaline who was born at just 27 weeks old and spent months in hospital.

Kate Backhouse is back from the World Transplant Games after winning 2 gold and a silver medal and breaking a world record.
Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin             ROK040711amedals1
Ms Willis set a world record at the World Transplant Games and won two golds and a silver medal. Allan Reinikka

Ms Willis and husband John wanted to start a family, but pregnancy was risky given the cystic fibrosis.

It's been two-and-a-half years since their little miracle joined the family and the couple wouldn't change a thing.

And all this would not have been possible were it not for one person's life-changing decision to donate their organs.

Over the years, Ms Willis has written several letters in a bid to say thank you to the family whose loss allowed her to live but has been unsuccessful in contacting them.

At the end of Donate Life Week, Ms Willis urged people to discuss their wishes with family before it was too late.

Kate Backhouse had her daughter Adaline at 27 weeks on February 26. Kate has cystic fibrosis and had complications during her pregnancy.
Photo Contributed
Kate Willis gave birth to daughter Adaline at 27 weeks, but now she is a healthy two-year-old. Contributed ROK090316backhouse1

Clinical Nurse Consultant for Organ Donation in CQ, Josephine Reoch, said seeing people thrive like Ms Willis was the reason she turned up to work each day.

"(A transplant) saves the life of the recipient, but also has consequences for all those around and the community itself," Ms Reoch said.

Although health is obviously a consideration for potential donors, Ms Reoch said there were generally very few cases where people could not donate at least some of their organs.

A donor is assessed for suitability at the hospital and Ms Reoch said people should register their wishes regardless of their health.

"There's very few absolute exclusions," she said.

"Generally you're not too old or too sick.

"You register your wishes and we'll worry about it at the time."


  • More than 1,400 Australians are waitlisted for an organ transplant and a further 11,000 on dialysis.
  • Register at donatelife.gov.au using your Medicare card.
  • It's important to let your family know your wishes, because nine in 10 families agree to donation when their loved one is a registered donor. This drops to four in 10 if the person is not registered and the family is unsure whether they were willing to be a donor. Regardless of your decision, your family will be asked to confirm it after you have died.
  • Only one in three Australians have joined the Australian Organ Donor Register.
  • Age is not a barrier - people over 80 have become organ and tissue donors.
  • People who smoke, drink or have an unhealthy diet can still donate. You don't have to be in perfect health to save lives.
  • You need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register - state-based driver's licence donor registries no longer exist.
  • All major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity.
  • Source: donatelife.gov.au