On Friday, September 4, Australians are being urged to wear their favourite sporting jersey to work or school for 'Jersey Day' to help raise awareness for organ donation after Hills District youngster Nathan Gremmo, who tragically lost his life earlier this year, saved six other lives.
The third-generation Hills Bulls junior and rugby league fanatic was crossing Glenhaven Road in May this year when he was struck by a car. He passed away in hospital the next day.
By chance, the unbearable tragedy came just two weeks after 13-year-old Nathan, inspired by a documentary he saw about organ donation, had a discussion on the subject with his parents Michael and Kylie.
It meant the family had no doubt what the right thing to do was when the unthinkable happened.
Nathan's father Michael told NRL.com the family is now urging everyone to have "the conversation" and hopes the jersey day initiative can be a catalyst for that.
Unlike most causes, organ donation is something that can only be helped by raising awareness rather than funds due to the critically low number of people registering as donors.
"Unlike most causes they don't need money because it's well funded by the Government, which is great news. What they do need is awareness," Mr Gremmo said.
Only around one per cent of all people that die are eligible to become an organ donor because you need to die in a hospital. Most organ donors suffer an unexpected accident or brain injury rather than illness.
But shockingly, one quarter of families overturn a loved one's decision to become an organ donor when faced with the choice.
"Only one per cent of people that die are eligible to be an organ donor. There are 1,600 people on the waiting list at the moment waiting for a life-saving transplants," Mr Gremmo said.
"Only 50 per cent of families in NSW actually say yes to organ donation and 25 per cent of families say no and overturn their loved one's decision when they've registered online to say they want to go ahead with it.
"It's not something you sit around and have a dinner conversation about but it's a very important conversation to have."
"Our main cause it to save some more lives; Nathan saved six lives of people that would have eventually died."
Mr Gremmo shared the touching story of one family that got in contact with the Gremmos after their baby son was saved by Nathan.
"We've since had a card from the family of a baby boy that received a section of Nathan's liver, which went to the baby who was gravely ill," he said.
"After two weeks the baby was at home rolling around on the carpet enjoying a normal life and if we hadn't gone ahead with that decision the baby wouldn't be there to live a happy healthy life.
"If we were in the reverse situation and Nathan needed a heart or lung to survive we'd move heaven and earth to make it happen but the reality is no amount of money or contacts will fix it – you're sitting there on a waiting list for a generous organ donation family to come along and saved your loved one's life.
"There are six lives that Nathan saved so it's an incredible legacy he's got."
One of the key parts of the Gremmo family's message is for people to be aware that there is no longer any such thing as "being an organ donor on your driver's licence", although the Australian Organ Donor Registry retains the details and wishes of those who registered under the previous system. You can now register online at donatelife.gov.au.
The NRL has thrown its support behind the campaign, which has received coverage on Channel Nine, Channel 10, 2GB and elsewhere, with personalities such as Laurie Daley and Nathan Hindmarsh also lending their support.
NRL General Manager League Integration & Game Development Andrew Hill told NRL.com the rugby league community has demonstrated a fantastic ability to rally behind each other and support each other.
"It's great that the NRL is in a position to raise awareness of such an important campaign as organ and tissue and donation," he said.
"Through Nathan's family's choice, they have been able to give the gift of life to six other people in need. Jersey Day is a campaign all about raising awareness for families to discuss a personal decision about becoming a donor and registering online."
He said the NRL is encouraging schools and all sports to get behind the campaign, and would be encouraging its own staff to take part by wearing a jersey to work on September 4.
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