The Herd of Hope was born
IN 2009, Megan McLoughlin was diagnosed with diabetes.
In that same year, she was told she would live only until Christmas.
In 2010, she had a double organ – kidney and liver – transplant.
In 2016, she decided it was time to give something back.
AN idea that is as much about embracing Australia’s history as it is about organ donation, Megan McLoughlin’s vision was to push 40 head of cattle across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Earlier this month, Megan was informed her fundraiser and community project would not be allowed to run, as told to her by the New South Wales Government.
But Megan has stared down bigger fights before and won, and this will be no exception.
“I’ve been very blessed in my story, because I’m still here and I have a husband who loves me and two beautiful little kids,” she explained.
“But all of that has only been made possible because of organ transplant – without it, I wouldn’t have survived.”
Before she even officially announced her intention to run rmccormack@ nemedia.com.au the Herd of Hope cattle drive, Megan had put in a phone call to Mansfield.
Her best friend, and the god mother to her daughter, is none other than local woman Kylie Egan.
“I’ve known Kylie forever, she has always been a part of my life, and there is no one with a bigger heart in this country than our Kyles.
“She is the type of person you would be proud to call a friend.”
The issue of organ donation is more than just an idealism for Kylie too, who watched her brother Phil donate his organs – thus giving five people a second chance at continuing their lives.
Before the Herd of Hope met its beaurocratic obstacle, Kylie had been given the role of one of the head stockman and, more than that, of being Megan’s eyes.
Megan, whose diabetes has made her legally blind, asked Kylie to be the one riding alongside her as she crossed the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“I got choked up when Megan called me to see if I would ride with her,” Kylie said.
“To be able to be beside her when we cross the bridge will mean a lot to both of us.”
The pair met when Megan was just four years old, in Mansfield with her parents who were part of the crew on the Man From Snowy River movies.
“She was a ripper kid,” Kyle explained.
“She was only this tiny little tacker, but she was so tough – she used to just follow me around, and we just always stayed friends.”
As momentum for the Herd of Hope drive gathered, the wider Mansfield community embraced the project as well.
A bus was commissioned to take locals to Sydney so those interested could cross the bridge on foot, and there was even talk of a sister event running over the Bonnie Doon Bridge at the same time.
Snowy Mountain Rug Company donated saddlecloths to all those heading out on horses, and Rodwell’s sponsored a cow from the cattle drive.
The Herd of Hope was scheduled for a Sunday, May 28, 7am start - but everything came to a grinding halt when Transport NSW c ontacted Megan and told her, despite the Sydney Harbour Bridge shutting down at least twice each year, that her “herd” would be too disruptive.
“One organ donor can save 10 lives and traffic disruption is nothing to those families,” Megan said in response.
“The harbour tunnel will stay open, we aren’t preventing people from using that.”
The New South Wales RTA have told Megan her idea will be “an inconvenience to motorists”.
“We are not shutting down access, they can go through the tunnel - and that is an inconvenience,” Megan said.
“But what is also an inconvenience is to be on the waiting list for an organ transfer.
“Being a family member of someone who is in hospital because they can’t go home is an inconvenience.
“Asking Sydney traffic to take an alternative route at 7am on a Monday morning is hardly that inconvenient.”
Although she is desperately hoping the event will go ahead later this year, Megan is none the less pleased with the media attention her cattle drive has stimulated.
Rather t han being about money, fame or anything else, all she really wanted was for Australian’s to celebrate being organ donors, and to encourage others to do so.
“All I ever wanted was to show the nation that organ donation makes a difference – that you can literally save lives by donating,” Megan said.
“I am living, breathing proof of that.
“If, after all of this is done, one more person donates their organs, then I’m happy – I’ve achieved what I set out to do.”
If you would like to keep up to date with the Herd of Hope progress, check into their Facebook page or go to the website at www.herdofhope.com.au
Each of the 40 heifers being driven across the bridge can be picked up by a sponsor, with funds given directly back to organ donation groups and families affected.
Megan is also asking everyone who supports organ donour to contact her through the website, or to let their local minister know they support the Herd of Hope.
FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT: Megan McLoughlin is determined to help save lives in Australia, by encouraging people to become organ donors. She is staging the “Herd of Hope”, a cattle drive over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to raise awareness. She is pictured with her two children, Sam and Ella.