I was introduced to kidney disease at the age of 15 when my father died of it. Subsequently four family members were diagnosed, with two of us fortunate enough to have had transplants. The day I was told I had kidney disease I drove around aimlessly thinking the sky had fallen.
Twenty odd years after being diagnosed I was told I needed dialysis. I was tired but nothing else was outwardly evident.
After six weeks training with a machine for peritoneal dialysis I suggested to my husband that we go and book a trip so we had something to look forward to. I felt a pang as my machine went down the oversize chute at the airport but was happy to have a direct flight so it had to come off with us.
Looking at the machine during those first weeks was very confronting as I realised that life was only possible with it. It was such a frightening thought that I blocked it out then we humanised the machine by christening him ‘Charlie’.
Charlie developed a distinct personality. He would play up at times and I would say to my husband “you had better come, he wants your attention”. Sure enough he then settled down and started properly! Charlie and I became very close as we spent nine hours together every night.
Having a sense of humour helped enormously. After naming Charlie we decided the nurses were Charlie’s Angels. They were delighted and although there were four of them, they all wondered in turn which of the three they were! Their support and care was so outstanding that we entered them for a hospital award – and they won!
The call to go to hospital for my transplant came at 1am on a Saturday.
I had retired from work four months earlier and was preparing for the transplant by thinking positively and exercising. On arrival at the hospital I even asked one of the doctors when I could start exercising again!
I have a very positive attitude – if you think you can, you will. Underlining everything is awareness that this is only possible because someone has given me this gift. There is a sense of accountability that never goes away.
I think about my donor and know the best I can do is eat healthily, exercise every day, drink plenty of water, keep appointments and take my tablets.
A Heart of Gold rose – red with a yellow centre – was planted to honour South Australia’s donors for 2013. That is how I view the donor families – you have hearts of gold to give this gift at such a time of grief. I am indebted to you for allowing me the chance to live a normal life again. Words can never express my gratitude.