Psychiatrist father of teenage organ donor who saved nine lives hopes others will donate
Robert Hampshire is hoping he gets the call one day.
The Sydney psychiatrist would like to speak to the people whose sight was restored with his son James Teague's striking blue eyes, whose lives were saved by his liver, and quality of life was improved with his pancreas, kidney and heart.
"I'd love to meet them, and I think they'd like to thank me as well. I think they'd want to know whose eyes they had," Hampshire says.
Rugby-loving Teague, 19, died after falling nearly 10m from a balcony during a skiing holiday to Queenstown with friends in 2014.
He had returned to the Glebe apartments after a night out drinking with friends when he slipped and fell onto concrete while trying to climb over the roof and get into his bedroom.
He was transferred from Lakes District Hospital to the intensive care unit at Dunedin Hospital and kept alive until his parents could reach his bedside.
"When we got the call, he was all but dead," Hampshire said. "They did a great job to keep him alive so we could say goodbye."
Three years on Hampshire continues to suffer from losing his son, and the trauma was cited when he appeared last week before the New South Wales Medical Tribunal over allegations he had sent lewd late night text messages to a client.
It was a chance conversation with his mother Caroline Teague before heading to Queenstown where James declared his keenness to be a donor, that made it an easy decision for his parents.
"We told the staff there we'd like to donate and within 10 minutes we were swarmed with people, a huge team swung into action with blood matching, testing, sampling, looking for potential matches."
A "harvest" team of surgeons arrived in Dunedin from Auckland and, as they operated on Teague, an aircraft waited with its engines running to rush the organs to nine people across Australia and New Zealand.
The trans-Tasman effort was an example of the tight cooperation between New Zealand and Australia to match organs to donors.
Teague, who played rugby for the Eastern Suburbs club in Sydney, had bulked up to 95kgs in the year after high school and was in good physical shape.
His liver reportedly saved at least two lives, including that of a six-year-old boy. Teague's pancreas and kidney were given to a 32-year-old woman, which freed her from dialysis and diabetes. And his heart went to a 53-year-old man.
"They sliced Jamesy's little liver up and gave it to four or five people. It grows in other people now."
It was Teague's eyes that Hampshire was most reluctant to let go, but he was comforted by the fact they gave sight to two young men.
Hampshire is speaking out to bring attention to the low donor rates across New Zealand and Australia.
The families of organ donors are able to communicate anonymously with recipients through Organ Donation New Zealand.
Recipients often exchange cards with donor's families on anniversaries and birthdays, but contact between donors and recipients is tightly controlled, as meetings can become emotionally fraught for both parties.
Hampshire said they still celebrated his son's birthday on August 31 with his friends and rugby teammates.
"We had a 20th birthday and a 21st birthday. He's very omnipresent in all of our thoughts."
Hampshire has had a colourful medical career; he's close friends with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, was a fixture of the Sydney social scene and tabloid press, and once owned Australia's most expensive residence, a prime waterfront mansion on Sydney Harbour that sold for $65m in 2016.
But his medical career appears to be over after he was suspended for sending explicit messages to a client following a day of drinking.
It was the latest in a long line of indiscretions including self-administering prescription drugs, substituting a false urine sample to avoid detection, and crashing his car while intoxicated.
A HIGH-FLYING SHRINK
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that back in the 1990s, the property-developing psychiatrist and his then-wife Sally were A-listers on the Sydney social scene.
They entertained lavishly at their home, the fabled Altona, an eight-bedroom waterfront mansion at Point Piper that, several owners later, sold for $60 million in 2016.
He was friends with Rene Rivkin, a disgraced stockbroker, and gave evidence at the trial of Rivkin's former chauffeur Gordon Wood, who was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Caroline Byrne before being cleared on appeal.
Since his 1990s heyday, the intervening years have not been kind to Hampshire. His property empire went bust, and he was bankrupted in 2010.
Hampshire told the tribunal he had been taking anti-depression medication and sleeping tablets since his son's death.
Hampshire told Stuff he was still struggling with his son's death, and while he wanted to encourage others to donate, he said it hadn't helped overcome his grief.
"A doctor said it must give you great comfort t donate, but it doesn't for me. Intellectually it's very comforting, but it doesn't save you on a day to day basis."
Less than 1 per cent of people will die in circumstances that make it possible for organs to be donated for transplantation, usually when they've suffered cardiac arrest or a severe brain injury.
The number of deceased organ donors has steadily increased in recent years. In 2016, there were 61 deceased organ donors, up from 53 in 2015 and 46 in 2014.
The Health Ministry launched the Deceased Organ Donation and Transplantation National Strategy in April to try to encourage more donors.
- Sunday Star Times