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Registered organ donors in central Victoria below national average as recipient seeks to 'give back'

Richard Betteridge is enjoying a second lease on life thanks to a liver transplant. (ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

Two years ago, Richard Betteridge had a life expectancy of just a few months — until a liver transplant changed everything.

"When I woke up in ICU [intensive care unit], the doctor said if the transplant didn't happen, I wouldn't have seen Christmas," he said.

"But I've seen two since, and plan to see a third this year because of the generosity of my donor and their family.

"My life has started again."

The 65 year old wants to share his story as part of DonateLife Week in a bid to encourage more people to become organ donors.

Just 26 per cent of the City of Greater Bendigo's eligible population are registered as a donor, below the national average of 36 per cent.

In the Macedon Ranges and Mount Alexander shires, 30 per cent of people are registered, while in Campaspe Shire it is 28 per cent, Buloke and Central Goldfields shires 24 per cent, and the Gannawarra and Loddon shires 23 per cent.

Rushed to hospital twice

Before Mr Betteridge's transplant, he was rushed to a Melbourne hospital twice for an available organ donation — only to be told those livers were not up to a transplantable standard.

But when he finally was able to replace his "stuffed" liver, Mr Betteridge said his life changed "immediately".

"My life has improved so much that I'm back regularly bowling, in my garden," he said.

"I get to go on trips with my wife and grandkids. 

"I've seen the birth of my first grandson, I've seen my granddaughter go to high school and my other granddaughter become school captain — things that would have been denied to me if I didn't have that transplant."

Mr Betteridge is encouraging anybody he can to sign up to become an organ donor.

"I remember my wife and I being so confused because I wasn't a drinker or drug user and here I was with non-alcoholic cirrhosis," he said.

"I'm trying to give back to the community through volunteering because I have a big debt to repay, that I'll never be able to repay but I want to repay because I have a new life now." 

Mr Betteridge is grateful for the work of Bendigo Health donation specialist Bradley Allan. (ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

One donor can help seven people

Bendigo Health ICU nurse and donation specialist Bradley Allan said one donor can help up to seven people.

"It's incredible to think that a donation operation can happen in Warrnambool or Tasmania, and that organ can get transplanted in Western Australia," he said.

Ms Allan added there were 13 million people in Australia who were eligible to register as organ donors but had not.

"Being an intensive care nurse, I've seen the tragedy but also seen the people who have been recipients," he said.

"It's that wonderful gift that keeps on giving.

"It's a positive out of a tragedy because someone has lost a life, to give a life."

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