Video: The gift of tissue donation – Bruce Esplin’s sculpture for the DTBV

“It was a great thing to give, in a small way, something back to a subject I am so passionate about – tissue donation,” says Bruce Esplin.

The former Victorian Emergency Services Commissioner is speaking about the opportunity he was given to carve a pair of hands to symbolise the giving and receiving of tissue donation for the DTBV.

Bruce Esplin worked extensively with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine as the Emergency Services Commissioner and has an enormous respect for the work of the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria. Notably, Bruce lead the State’s emergency services throughout the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and its aftermath in which many Victorians required extensive skin grafts to treat the horrific burns suffered on that tragic day. At no other time in the DTBV’s history was the importance of having life-saving skin tissue available more relevant.

“Tissue donation is such an important thing,” reflects Bruce.

Bruce has sculpted hands for many years in his spare time, and is now able to spend a lot more time focussing on his passion since his retirement. Professor Stephen Cordner (Director of VIFM) approached Bruce prior to his retirement with a commission for a sculpture for the DTBV. At the time, the very busy Commissioner quipped, “You can’t commission the Commissioner,” and the idea was put on the backburner until now.

The hands are being carved using a sustainable plantation timber and will be taken to an foundry in Collingwood where they will be cast in bronze.

The finished bronze work will bear the tool marks of the artist. This was seen as an important feature of the artwork because, as Bruce points out, the roughness represents the harsh times the donor’s family experience and reflects on the reality that tissue donation is not always an easy decision and path to choose.

Bruce was keen to show the ‘giving’ hand as being strong. “The strength of the giving hand is part of having to make that really big decision: if I happen to demise, I am going to let parts of me create a better life for other people.”

The “The Gift” sculpture will be on display outside the new DTBV facility which is due for completion in 2015.

Read more about the unveiling of ‘The Gift’ at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine on 17 April 2014.

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