Giftoflife for nine out of family’s tragic loss
Grieving dad hopes to meet organ recipients, writes Bevan Hurley.
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.