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What a great place to wait

31 Jan 2012

What a great place to wait Image

If you are going to be stuck in Melbourne awaiting an organ transplant, what better place to wait than Docklands?

This is the view of the Ashton family who are in Docklands while a healthy set of lungs can be sourced for the eldest son Coen.

Dawn Ashton and her husband Mark put their lives on hold last October when they came to Docklands from Maryborough in Queensland.

“We think Docklands is awesome,” Dawn said.  “The views, the water, the people are great here. We love it.”

The family spent the first three months in an apartment at NewQuay but is currently staying aboard their yacht at Yarra’s Edge while they find more permanent accommodation.

The trouble is, they don’t know how long they will be in Melbourne.  They have been told to be within an hour of the Alfred Hospital in case the call comes that new lungs have been sourced for Coen who was born with cystic fibrosis.

Depending on where he is in the cycle, the 14-year-old has between 20 and 27 per cent lung capacity.  Independent of this problem, Coen is also a self-injecting diabetic.

Docklands is a great location spot the family as it is half way between the Alfred and the Royal Children’s Hospital where Coen spends two weeks of every month.

When in hospital, he is subjected to a routine of medication and physiotherapy so that, when organ donors are found, he is in physical condition to receive his new lungs.

Even though Coen is on the list for new lungs, it is not something that comes up every day.  In fact, Dawn said that in 2006 there was only one such suitable donation made in Victoria and only six in Australia.  Melbourne is the only place in Australia or New Zealand where Coen can receive new lungs.

He needs lungs from someone generally matching his age (16 is the minimum age at which someone can flag their intention to donate their organs). The lungs also need to be from someone on a respirator so the only potential donors would be an accident victim or a young person suffering a brain aneurism.

But Coen is not the sort of kid to rest on his laurels.  Publicity he has generated for the cause has resulted in more than 1000 people signing up to become organ donors.

Most of this came via an astounding achievement for someone so ill – last year he jet skied 2000 km down the Murray River. This also resulted in him being awarded a Pride of Australia medal which recognised his courage.  See

Coen wanted to “do something big” to raise awareness on organ donation.  “I originally wanted to do something with camels, but Mum talked me out of it when she told me that they bite, spit and fart,” he said.

When the Ashtons received the call last October that Coen was next in line for new lungs, they dropped everything and headed to Melbourne.  They can’t really work here because of the demands of looking after Coen and also because they don’t know how long they will be here.

The family dog is being looked after in South Australia by Mark’s brother and, apart from clothing, all their belongings are back in Queensland.  Mark is currently restoring his boat, which a friend sailed down from Queensland.

The Ashtons’ younger son Kai, 6, is enrolled at North Melbourne Primary School.  Coen studies by distance education, but would love to attend University High School this year.

He said that, because Uni High was so close to the Royal Children’s it would be ideal for him.

“I could go across there during the day from hospital,” he said.  Coen said he would love to go to school even if it was part time.

When Docklands News caught up with the Ashtons, Coen and Kai were enjoying community sailing day at the Docklands Yacht Club.  The family learned of the opportunity via Docklands News last year and have now become club members.

It was Coen’s first day out after a fortnight in hospital and, rather than go home, they headed straight to the yacht club so he could go for a sail with his brother.

The Rotary Club of Docklands is assisting the Docklands Yacht Club to offer the experience of sailing to under-privileged children who would otherwise not have such an opportunity.  See

Rotary and the Docklands Yacht Club are hosting another community “Try Sailing” day from Waterfront City marina on February 26. For more information, call Ray on 0429 868 304 or Mark 0418 322 299.

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