WHEN Murray and Nicol Heard were asked one of the toughest questions they would ever have to answer, they knew exactly what their response would be.
When their five-year-old son Paddy died in May last year, the Heards were asked if they would consider donating his tiny organs to give someone else the gift of life and to hopefully spare other parents of the grief they were experiencing.
They immediately said yes.
“There was no question for us,” Mrs Heard said.
“We decided as a family that that is what we wanted to do. To hopefully spare others what we were, and still are, going through.”
Now the Heards, their 13-year-old daughter Haylee and 12-year-old son Billy are using their experiences from those dark days to help raise awareness of organ donation.
Yesterday the family and a group of supporters set off from the Twelve Apostles on a 100-kilometre trek — dubbed Paddy’s Courage — to Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Walk, aiming to raise awareness of organ donation.
Mr Heard, who grew up in Terang, said before Paddy died they had seen first-hand the importance of organ donation.
In 2011 Mrs Heard and the children were flown to Melbourne hospitals after being involved in a car accident.
Haylee looked to be in need of a lung transplant and Paddy had part of his skull removed to relieve pressure on the brain.
After being released from hospital, the Heards set off on a trip around Australia.
While in Byron Bay, Paddy started to feel unwell and had a high temperature. But his father said his breathing then changed and he couldn’t be woken.
Mr Heard said Paddy contracted a virus that was harmless to most people but, because of the cracks in his skull from the accident, it spread into his brain.
“After the accident we had seen people in hospital waiting for organ transplants,” he said.
Mrs Heard added: “If Paddy could have been saved by an organ donation we would have been the first ones to put our hands up to say, yep, save our son. So you can’t ask somebody to save our child and not be willing to, as we say, pay it forward and give it back.”
Mr Heard said the Paddy’s Courage walk wasn’t about raising money, it was aimed solely at raising awareness to the importance of organ donation and making people aware of your wishes.
“It’s not just about getting people to register as an organ donor, it’s about getting them to sit down and have a discussion to make sure their family members know what your wishes are,” he said.
“Even if you’re registered and said you are prepared to donate everything, a family member can still say no, they don’t want it to happen. That’s why it’s so important to make sure people know of your wishes.”
The Heards have set up a foundation in Paddy’s honour to continue to raise awareness of organ donation and more information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/PaddysCourage.
n This week is Donate Life Week, Australia’s national awareness week to promote organ and tissue donation. For more information visit donatelife.gov.au.