I was diagnosed with renal failure after a number of years of non-specific illness, which was not diagnosed as relating to my kidneys. At this time, I was married with two adult children and was aged 49.
I suffered a partial loss of my eyesight. The eye specialist to whom I was referred told me that the problem could be related to my kidneys. I subsequently consulted a renal specialist and after a kidney biopsy was told that I was in renal failure.
I commenced haemodialysis at a Sydney renal unit. After two years, I started home training after being encouraged by the wonderful renal nurses and later undertook renal dialysis at home.
We then relocated to Forster on the North Coast with the home dialysis machine. I received a late night call about a kidney being available for transplant in Sydney. However, after being prepared for surgery, the kidney was found to have been damaged and the operation was cancelled.
The day after my 60th birthday, I received a call to say that another kidney was available. We were told that the kidney was not a match, apart from the blood type, but we decided to take the risk after nearly 10 years of dialysis. The operation proceeded well, due in no small part to the wonderful doctors and nurses at the transplant unit and the great follow-up staff.
As you may notice, I have used the term 'we' as my husband was my carer for the period I was on dialysis and also attended all medical appointments and discussions. I found this to be most important as I did not always take in what was being said and was sometimes emotional.
Since my transplant, my health has improved beyond belief. I have always tried to follow medical advice and stay healthy even during dialysis, so that any transplant would have more chance of success. I have kept this attitude as I realise that a transplant is not a cure but another form of treatment.
The hardest thing about dialysis was that my family, including grandchildren, were a long distance away and we could not travel to see them without having to arrange dialysis in hospitals. This was particularly difficult on short notice when a family emergency arose and left me feeling helpless.
I would just like to let donor families know that their brave decision to donate the organs of their lost loved one means so much to so many recipients and their whole families.
I have lived with my donor kidney for nearly 10 years. I would not have been able to see so much of Australia had I not had a transplant. I bless the donor family every night.