The Herd of Hope was born

Mansfield Courier - - OPINIONS/PEOPLE - McCORMACK

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.

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