My name is Cheryl. I am 50 years old and I was given a second chance. I received a liver transplant.
I am a single parent with two teenage boys who were 14 and 15 at the time. They were staying with their grandparents while I was in hospital dying. They hadn't seen me in months and the hospital often wouldn't let me talk to them on the phone because my lungs had filled with fluid and my kidneys were failing. I was on dialysis.
The phone calls were stressful because I was gasping for breath and they knew that I was really sick - but not how bad it really was. My eldest was in Year 10 and was trying to cope with study and his ill mother. My youngest was the rock, helping his brother and trying to stay brave for all concerned.
That time is sometimes a blur for me, I was so sick I was delirious and had trouble remembering even the smallest of things. I didn't want to scare my children but I missed them enormously. I didn't want to leave them without a mother.
I fought my hardest to stay alive but when your body is giving up on you there isn't much you can do. My family had had a tough year. My sister lost her eldest daughter, Naomi, to cancer. She was 35 and left behind an 18 month old daughter, Scarlett. My brother, Les, died from cancer as well. My sisters, Leonie and Christine, took turns staying with me every day while I waited. The strain on them was enormous.
The call came to the nurses desk - they had a liver for me. I was awake, and when the nurse approached me with a huge smile on his face I knew.
I felt stronger than I had in months and nearly jumped out of the bed. Please, please I said, I need to ring my sisters and sons. The nurse told me to calm down and got a phone for me. I rang both my sisters who jumped in their cars and raced to the hospital.
They promised to ring my children as soon as I went into surgery. I knew it was going to be OK. I believed I was going to make it. I silently thanked the family that had had to make the hard decision to give me life. I knew someone had died to let me live and I thanked them again and again as I slipped into sleep. The surgery took nine hours and 22 litres of blood. It didn't go as planned but I made it through. All I needed was that chance.
Today I am still going well and have only had a few minor problems after the surgery. My sons are now 18 and 19 and getting on with their lives. I am so grateful to the family of the person who made the decision to donate. He/she is the hero of my family. I think of them often and hope that their family is doing well. Many of my friends and co-workers have decided to donate since hearing of my story and I hope this can inspire someone else as well.