I found myself typing a reply to Jennifer saying I’d like to find out more.
Before long, I was filling in questionnaires and then
I went for a blood test to see if I was a match.
There was the slimmest of possibilities, so when I got the call telling me I was a match, it was the coolest moment of my life.
‘I can give you a kidney,’ I told Jennifer on the phone, fighting back tears.
Her parents and husband were with her and they were all crying.
Nobody could believe it, least of all my family!
‘What if one of your kids needs a kidney in future and you’ve given it away already?’ people asked.
‘What if I don’t do it and my kids don’t need a kidney?’ I replied.
My mind was made up, but there was just one more big hurdle.
‘You need to lose another 36 kilos,’ the transplant surgeon told me.
It was September 2018, and I wanted to donate before Jennifer needed dialysis in January, so that gave me three months.
So, at the point where my resolve was usually weakening, I suddenly had a new focus.
I joined a gym and was super strict with my diet – and it worked!
By the time of the operation on December 27, I weighed 65 kilos.
In total, I’d lost 71 kilos.
I was so proud of myself but the real celebration would come after I had helped Jennifer.
By now, we’d met in person a few times and were firm friends.
‘I still can’t believe you’re doing this,’ she would say.
I couldn’t explain it either. It just felt right.
The surgery was laparoscopic so there’d be no scarring, but I was warned that my recovery would be eight weeks.
‘Jennifer’s been suffering since she was in her 20s. I can manage a few months of discomfort,’ I said.
Actually, my recovery was pretty fast. I was walking around the day after the transplant and three weeks later, I was back at work.
Jennifer did incredibly, too.
‘You couldn’t have picked a better kidney,’ the surgeon told her.
It was functioning straight away with no signs of rejection.
‘Thank you,’ Jennifer said.
‘No, thank you,’ I laughed, reminding her she was the reason I’d stuck at my diet!
It was an amazing feeling to help change her life.
Soon after, I read an article about how you could donate part of your liver and learnt that, incredibly, it grows back.
Could I do that even after donating a kidney?
I messaged a transplant hospital near where I live in the US. And it turned out I could!
So, in June this year, after an anonymous match was found, I was wheeled into theatre once again.
This time, with no keyhole surgery, I was cut down my abdomen, as surgeons took a part of my liver.
‘You’re pretty cool, Mum,’ Mackenzie, now 16, told me.
‘One day you’ll come home with no eye because you wanted to help someone blind!’ Tristan, 12, joked.
I would like to help again but there’s nothing more I can give.
Instead, I’m focusing on raising awareness about live organ donation.
It’s a big deal and I get that people are scared by it but it’s the most fulfilling, positive thing I’ve ever done.
Ironically, organ donation has benefited everyone in my case.
By donating, I’ve helped save two lives and by losing so much weight to become a donor, I may well have saved my own life too. ●