Three weeks ago, Elsie Howarth sacrificed a kidney to spare her father 10 hours of dialysis every second day.
In doing so, she also saved the taxpayer about $3000 a week.
But since the operation she has been in too much pain to return to work – and has yet to receive a cent in benefits.
Her experience has left the 24-year-old from Titahi Bay unsurprised New Zealand has such low donor rates. About 40 kidney transplants are made in Wellington every year.
“You just feel like you’ve been let down by the whole system,” she said. “It’s a massive slap in the face.”
Father Robin Howarth, 53, said: “The way they treat these heroes, no wonder people don’t donate in this country.”
The family were warned that Elsie could take some time to recover from surgery, but he said it was heartbreaking to see her in pain while his own health had blossomed since the transplant.
“She walks around like a 90-year-old. I’m walking around like a spring chicken. It’s absolutely shocking, to be honest, that she’s treated so badly.”
Elsie donated a kidney to her father on June 22. Since then, she has suffered nausea, swelling, pain and fatigue and is unlikely to return to work at Tawa BP for six more weeks.
Financial assistance is available to organ donors for up to 12 weeks after surgery. Elsie is eligible for a maximum weekly payment of $175.10 a week for a single person aged 20 to 24. If she was a year older, it would be $210.13.
So if you are an organ donor you may have to go off work for 12 weeks, and will get just $200 a week while you do!
The pair are championing a new member’s bill being brought to parliament by Lower Hutt-based MP Chris Bishop, which would vastly increase payments to kidney and liver donors.
Bishop’s Financial Assistance For Live Organ Donors Bill was drawn from the ballot on June 25, and had broad informal support in the House, Bishop said. It would pay donors 80 per cent of their income for 12 weeks, matching the ACC model. Childcare assistance would also be provided.
I’m a strong supporter of this – both on economic and humanitarian grounds.
He could not estimate the cost of the proposed changes, but said it was likely to save the Government money.
“Live kidney donation is the least expensive form of treatment for end-stage renal failure, and significantly improves life expectancy.
Bishop’s bill is at No 8 on the order paper. They get debated only every second Wednesday when the House is sitting, so it should come up for first reading in the last quarter of 2015.