Giftoflife for nine out of fam­ily’s tragic loss

Griev­ing dad hopes to meet or­gan re­cip­i­ents, writes Be­van Hur­ley.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Robert Hamp­shire is hop­ing he gets the call one day.

The Syd­ney psy­chi­a­trist would like to speak to the peo­ple whose sight was re­stored with his son James Teague’s strik­ing blue eyes; whose lives were saved by his liver; and whose qual­ity of life was im­proved with his pan­creas, kid­ney and heart.

‘‘I’d love to meet them, and I think they’d like to thank me as well. I think they’d want to know whose eyes they had,’’ Hamp­shire said.

Rugby-lov­ing Teague, 19, died af­ter fall­ing nearly 10m from a bal­cony dur­ing a ski­ing hol­i­day to Queen­stown with friends in 2014. The in­ten­sive care unit at Dunedin Hospi­tal kept him alive un­til his par­ents could reach his bed­side.

Three years on Hamp­shire con­tin­ues to suf­fer from los­ing his son, and the trauma was cited when he ap­peared last week be­fore the New South Wales Med­i­cal Tri­bunal over al­le­ga­tions he had sent lewd late-night text mes­sages to a client.

Be­fore Teague headed to Queen­stown a chance con­ver­sa­tion with his mother, Car­o­line Teague, in which the teenager de­clared his sup­port for or­gan do­na­tion, made it an easy de­ci­sion for his par­ents.

‘‘We told the staff there we’d like to do­nate and within 10 min­utes we were swarmed with peo­ple, a huge team swung into ac­tion with blood match­ing, test­ing, sam­pling, look­ing for po­ten­tial matches.’’

A ‘‘har­vest’’ team of sur­geons ar­rived in Dunedin from Auck­land and, as they op­er­ated on Teague, an air­craft waited with its en­gines run­ning to rush the or­gans to nine peo­ple across Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

Teague, a promis­ing rugby player with the Eastern Sub­urbs club in Syd­ney, had bulked up to 95kg in the year af­ter high school and was in good phys­i­cal shape.

His liver re­port­edly saved at least two lives, in­clud­ing that of a 6-year-old boy. Teague’s pan­creas and kid­ney were given to a 32-year-old woman, which freed her from dial­y­sis and di­a­betes. And his heart went to a 53-year-old man.

‘‘They sliced Jamesy’s lit­tle liver up and gave it to four or five peo­ple. It grows in other peo­ple now.’’

It was Teague’s eyes that Hamp­shire was most re­luc­tant to let go, but he was com­forted by the fact they gave sight to two young men.

Hamp­shire is speak­ing out to bring at­ten­tion to the low donor rates across New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

The fam­i­lies of or­gan donors are able to com­mu­ni­cate anony­mously with re­cip­i­ents through Or­gan Do­na­tion NZ.

Re­cip­i­ents of­ten ex­change cards with the donor’s fam­ily on an­niver­saries and birthdays, but con­tact is tightly con­trolled, as meet­ings can be fraught for both par­ties.

Hamp­shire was once a fix­ture on the Syd­ney so­cial scene in the 1990s, and once owned Aus­tralia’s most ex­pen­sive res­i­dence, a prime water­front man­sion on Syd­ney Har­bour.

But his prop­erty em­pire went bust, and he was bankrupted in 2010. His med­i­cal ca­reer also ap­pears to be over af­ter the tri­bunal sus­pended him.

The texts were the lat­est in a long line of in­dis­cre­tions in­clud­ing self-ad­min­is­ter —ing prescription drugs, sub­sti­tut­ing a false urine sam­ple to avoid de­tec­tion, and crash­ing his car while in­tox­i­cated.

Hamp­shire told the Sun­day Star-Times he was still strug­gling with the tragedy, and al­though he wanted to en­cour­age oth­ers to do­nate, it hadn’t helped over­come his grief.

‘‘A doc­tor said it must give you great com­fort to do­nate, but it doesn’t for me. In­tel­lec­tu­ally it’s very com­fort­ing, but it doesn’t save you on a day to day ba­sis.’’

Robert Hamp­shire still feels the loss of his son James keenly.

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