Peter Dale's death in 2013 came with no warning.
Peter Dale's death in 2013 came with no warning. Contributed

A final act of kindness

THIS month will mark two years since Ipswich footballer, grandfather and pigeon breeder Peter Dale suffered a cerebral haemorrhage.

It was August 2013. At the age of 68, Peter was healthy, fit and still played touch football regularly with his younger teammates.

On this particular day, Peter and wife Jeanette had only just returned from a relaxing two-week holiday to the Gold Coast.

They woke up at their usual early hour and listened to the 5.30am news before Jeanette got up to put the kettle on.

"I gave him a kiss and said I loved him, which I told him every day," Jeanette said. "I was in the kitchen... and I heard a noise.

"When I went up the hallway, it was Peter on the floor.


"It all happened that quickly."

Within no time at all, fit and healthy Peter was in hospital on life support. His brain had suffered too much damage and would not recover.

Rather, he was dying in the specific and rare circumstances that allow for organ donation. For the most part in Australia, that means a brain death.

"Brain death occurs when the brain has been so badly damaged that it completely and permanently stops functioning," DonateLife Queensland spokeswoman Kate Stodart said.

"This can occur as the result of severe head injury, bleeding in the brain such as stroke or haemorrhage, brain infection or tumour, or lack of oxygen to the brain."

By the end of the day, Jeanette and the couple's three children were asked the difficult question.

Would Peter donate his organs?

"As soon as they mentioned it, I straight away said yes," Jeanette said.

"I knew that that's what Peter would want."

Peter's lungs, kidneys and liver are now giving new life to four different people.

The beloved father and grandfather was one of 391 people across Australia who became organ donors in 2013.

Jeanette Dale, whose husband passed away two years ago, talks about how he was able to donate his organs to help save the lives of others.
Jeanette Dale, whose husband passed away two years ago, talks about how he was able to donate his organs to help save the lives of others. David Nielsen

His wife and children were one of about 700 families who were asked for consent.

Year on year, DonateLife statistics show Australia manages to achieve a consent rate of about 60% when families are asked to donate, whether it is organs such as lungs or kidneys or tissue such as heart valves, bone, skin or parts of the eye.

In Queensland and in other states, the refusal rate has stayed steady at about 40% per year since 2009.

There are many reasons a family refuse donation and research indicates it may be because they don't know what their dying loved one wanted.

Ms Stodart said DonateLife Queensland's main message for several years had been encouraging families to talk to ach other.

They want the sometimes morbid, sometimes squeamish conversation to happen first in lounge rooms and at kitchen tables - not in hospital rooms where the person in question is no longer capable of having their say.

"Research tells us that when families have had that conversation, the decision to donate is made much easier on families, as all they have to do is honour their loved one's decision, not make the decision in a time of great sadness and stress," Ms Stodart said.

Two years on from her husband's death, Jeanette is unequivocal in her agreement with DonateLife.

She encouraged others to decide their own stance on organ donation and to make it known to the people they love.

Jeanette credits regular conversations with Peter for making the decision easier on that unexpected, tragic day in 2013.

"He and I had discussed it quite a bit. If we saw a show on TV or some story, we'd always have a little talk," she said.

"We both knew that each other would be an organ donor."

Jeanette, a former chaplain at Ipswich Hospital, has now retired to the coastal investment property that was supposed to be a retirement home for her and Peter.

The knowledge that Peter saved lives has not lessened the grief for Jeanette, but she described a feeling of peace in knowing he committed a kind act on his final day.

Two of the four people who received Peter's organs have written to Jeanette via DonateLife's anonymous letter-writing service.

It allows donor families and recipients to communicate without giving away any identifying information.

The first letter came just six months after Peter's death.

Jeanette doesn't know which of Peter's organs this anonymous writer received. She knows only that it changed their life, and that they are grateful.

She said life had become easier in the two years since Peter died thanks to the support of friends, family, neighbours and her church.

But Jeanette still misses her husband every day.

She is firm when she says the conversation DonateLife is desperate for people to have cannot wait.

"Peter didn't get any second chances to let me know," she said.

Jeanette Dale
Jeanette Dale David Nielsen


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