Herding hope for health

Megan builds transplant hope with a herd

POSITIVE IMPACT: Herd of Hope founder Megan McLoughlin, Tanunda, with her horse Biscuits, is organising a charity campdraft at Marrabel.

POSITIVE IMPACT: Herd of Hope founder Megan McLoughlin, Tanunda, with her horse Biscuits, is organising a charity campdraft at Marrabel.

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Megan McLoughlin, a passionate country woman, is using her second chance to herd support for organ donation, and she has turned to an original Australian sport to do it.

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Borrowed time can be hard to come by, and is something Megan McLoughlin, Tanunda, does not take for granted.

Megan had battled health problems since she was eight years old, having been diagnosed with type one diabetes and then left legally blind after a routine operation in 2008.

But things came to a head in 2010 when Megan found herself in a Sydney hospital, waiting to receive a double organ transplant of the pancreas and kidney, after being told she had a month to live.

“When I was waiting for my transplant, I always thought that hope was stronger than fear,” Megan said.

Megan’s donor not only saved her life, but created two others.

“I never would have met my husband, who came into my life a month after my transplant, and we have two kids now,” she said.

“So it didn't just save my life, it created two beautiful little lives.”

Inspired by her experience, Megan wanted to pass on her hope to all Australians affected by organ donation and established charity Herd of Hope earlier this year.

The South Australian-based charity aims to raise awareness and funds to support organ transplant recipients, as well as donors and their families, providing accommodation for families travelling from rural areas.

“One-in-three transplant recipients and one-in-four donor families are regionally based,” Megan said.

She said this really hit home to her after speaking at the Crystal Brook Show earlier this year.

“From the time I got off the stage, I had 12 families come up to me that had been affected by organ donation – that’s huge in a small town,” she said.

“One person may potentially save 10 people’s lives from their decision.

“It can be so stressful as families don't know the city, it’s four in the morning, and they don't know if their loved one is going to live.

“We thought if we could eliminate one side of the stress, then that’s going to help those people.”

She said fellow transport recipient and friend Steve Ernst summed it up well, saying recipients held onto hope and when they got the call about a transplant, “there’s a family out there that thinks they’re losing hope when in actual fact they’re just passing it on to someone else”.

Megan’s goal is to expand the Herd and – while she says it may sound strange – “unite Australia”.

“Organ donation is so simple and it defines mateship,” she said. 

“You can’t be thanked for it and the person who receives it can't thank you for it – there's nothing you get in return and that's more Australian than anything.”

MESSAGE SHARED FROM BEACHES TO RURAL BACKROADS

THE last sight anyone would expect to see on Bondi Beach at 7am would be cattle, but on March 17, Megan McLoughlin and her charity Herd of Hope, managed to make that happen.

The charity aims to raise awareness and funds in aid of organ donation, born from her own experience.

The Herd’s next stop is Marrabel, where a campdraft will be held on September 30.

“We are a very Australian charity, so we chose to do a cattle drive at Bondi in March and now an event with probably the most unique sports to Australia – campdrafting,” Megan said. 

“We wanted to facilitate a large crowd and what better place to hold a campdraft than Marrabel?

“We just want it to be a very family-friendly day so there will be activities like face painting and jumping castles. 

“We have an amazing array of riders coming from Vic, NSW and SA; and there will even be a couple of celebrity appearances.”

Cattle are in the blood for Megan, having grown up with horses and cattle on a farm near Bordertown with father Jim Willoughby and uncle Bill Willoughby – both accomplished stockmen. 

“We want a big crowd for the campdraft because so many people you meet are affected by (organ donation) and if we can get people there and show the positives that come out of it, and start some conversations, maybe others will get a second chance,” Megan said. 

The campdraft will be held at the Marrabel rodeo grounds from 10.30am with entry by gold coin donation.

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