I was always registered as a potential organ donor, never once considering that I may one day become a recipient. I knew little about organ donation other than it saved lives and I knew of no one who had ever had a transplant.
Unexpectedly, on a routine visit to my GP, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and needed medication to control this. A liver function test was carried out before I could take the medication and a liver problem was found.
Several months passed with more GP visits, a referral to a specialist and more tests before a final diagnosis was made. I had a disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis which, due to inflammation and narrowing of the bile ducts in the liver, causes the accumulation of bile in the liver and liver cell damage. It is a disease with no known cause and a transplant was the only cure.
This all sounded a little far-fetched to me as my health was good. After a couple more years, small problems arose such as infections, meaning short hospital stays. My life was on hold and I took sick leave from my teaching career.
I began the wait for a donor - an agonising time for my family. With the uncertainty of a suitable donor being found, I became yellow, more tired and unable to cope with normal day-to-day routines. I felt helpless when I could no longer do my patchwork and quilting.
One year after going on the waiting list, the call came that a liver had been found for me. After a lengthy surgery and recovery period I was back to my old self again, being able to do all the things I used to do. Now retired, I can focus on new activities.
My thoughts will always go to the family who lost a loved one. Their generosity in a time of grief is admirable and 'thank you' does not seem quite enough.
I am now committed to spreading the word about organ donation through my volunteer work with DonateLife and Transplant Australia.