1995 will forever remain as the most important year of my life.
Whilst it was also the last time my beloved Carlton held the AFL Premiership Cup, it was that year, I was able to afford my wife the greatest gift of all – a new kidney.
From an unfairly tender age, my wife Sue suffered from a condition that irreparably damaged both kidneys and sent her on the road to complete renal failure and a reliance on haemodialysis by the age of 24.
We were married a year later and, whilst being connected to a blood cleansing machine for four hours, four times a week was keeping her alive, the quality of life - and her health - had taken a downward turn.
In late 1991, hope sprang. However, the donated organ proved to be too traumatised to be effective and was removed within 24 hours. Embarrassingly, it wasn’t until a long time afterward we thought of the grieving family of the donor going through the similar heartbreak of loss.
It then became increasingly apparent that haemodialysis treatment was an unsustainable solution and that a transplant was Sue’s only hope of not only life itself but a better and healthier life.
Perhaps in the belief that I may never have to concern myself with birthday and Christmas presents, I asked to test the suitability of my kidneys for transplant.
It was a roller coaster of emotion. Initial testing was positive but Sue developed anti-bodies following a transfusion with my blood, all bets were off.
After an anguishing "wait and see” period, Sue developed anti-bodies to the anti-bodies (for want of a correct medical term). We were on again.
The remaining testing then primarily revolved around my body’s ability to lose a kidney and cope. Thankfully, that proved to be the case.
In November 1995 a surgical team prepared Sue to receive a new kidney. In an adjoining theatre, my left kidney was carefully removed.
A few hours later, nursing staff presented Sue with a near full bag of urine produced by her new organ. A strange sounding gift, but anyone who has undergone a kidney transplant will appreciate the profound joy that such a sight would bring.
All that happened almost 20 years ago and our life together since has taken on dimensions that we never dreamed possible.
Being so close to an environment of expectation and hope over such a prolonged period, I have no hesitation in recommending that all families discuss and carefully consider the wish and gift of organ donation and the potential it has to change not only a recipient’s life, but that of those around them.
Don’t take your organs to heaven – heaven knows we need them here.