A second chance at life for double transplant recipient

Blessings: Megan McLoughlin with her two children Sam, 2, and Ella, 10 months. Photo: Carla Wiese-Smith.

Blessings: Megan McLoughlin with her two children Sam, 2, and Ella, 10 months. Photo: Carla Wiese-Smith.

Megan McLoughlin, the woman behind 'Herd of Hope', knows first-hand what it means to be given a second chance at life – she’s a double transplant recipient. 

Herd of Hope will see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a workable stock route, closed for stockmen on horseback to cross the iconic bridge with a herd of cattle. Each stockman has been directly connected to a life changing organ and tissue transplant.

The cattle drive was formed from Megan’s idea to promote organ and tissue donation awareness across Australia. After starting dialysis, which was taking its toll on her, in 2010 Megan was given a month to live. She received her kidney-pancreas transplant 20 days later; her “second chance at life”.

“I am probably one of the only females you speak to that gets excited about turning another year older,” she said. “What drives me to do this event is I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t have two beautiful children; I have been on borrowed time.

“I have been given the opportunity, and I am very very grateful. I have two children that are such miracle babies, such blessings. Sometimes they are feral ratbags, but at the same time bring so much happiness.”

Megan, now 35, met her husband Mark while she was still recovering from her transplant in Sydney. It was during this time that the iconic idea sprang to mind.

“While I was still in Sydney they had the 75th celebration of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Karl Stefanovic (on TV) was joking about how funny it was that you could take a herd of cattle across it as long as you pay the toll,” she said. “I’ve gone ‘brilliant’, got straight on the phone to my dad Jim and told him I think we should take a herd of cattle across the Bridge for organ donation awareness.

“Taking 90pc of the adjectives out of it, he said I was a bloody idiot, that I don’t think before I act, and hung up on me.”

But Jim rang Megan back 45 minutes later and said “I think you can do this”. And so the Herd of Hope was born. “This cause needed an event that captures the whole country,” she said.  “I think every Australian thinks they are a country person at heart, even in Sydney. This captures that idyllic relationship.”

Megan McLoughlin (centre) with her father Jim Willoughby and brother Tom, Allendale North.

Megan McLoughlin (centre) with her father Jim Willoughby and brother Tom, Allendale North.