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I lost 71 kilos to save a stranger!

Pamela is so inspiring

When Pamela Ann Davis, 40, saw a post on Facebook, it felt like a sign. 

Here, she tells the story in her own words.

Looking at the scales, I sighed knowing I’d been here before.

I would lose 30 kilos but then I’d stall. It was hard to keep motivated.

Over the years, I’d diet hard to get to this same point but then I’d give up, putting the kilos all back on.

Not this time, I thought.

This time really did feel different. A few months earlier, my 14-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, had shown me a photograph she’d taken. It showed the same 136-kilo me I saw every time I looked in the mirror, but seeing that photo I felt disgusted.

‘I’m going to change,’ I’d told her.

Instead of turning to my usual salad diet, this time I researched properly, spending hours online looking at how to make what I liked to eat, healthier.

For pizza, I needed to load up on vegies and use light cheese. I could even eat cheeseburgers if I made them with lean mince and used a wholewheat bun.

Next, I started walking.

A kindy teacher, I spent recess doing laps around the playground.

‘You’re doing great Mum,’ Mackenzie and my son, Tristan, then 10, encouraged.

I felt pretty good too.

But as the weeks went by, could I stay on track?

One evening, I was on Facebook and a post from an old high school friend, Jennifer Trevino, 40, came up. She had diabetes and was suffering stage 4 kidney failure. She needed a transplant and was making a desperate plea for help.

I hadn’t seen or heard from Jennifer in 20 years, she was practically a stranger now. But a voice piped up in my head.

‘This is meant for you,’ it said clearly.

Pamela and Jennifer
Me with Jennifer

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.

Pamela and kids
Tristan, me and Mackenzie after the kidney surgery

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.

Pamela after her liver donation
Me after my liver donation

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.

For more information about organ donation, visit donatelife.gov.au (Aus) or donor.co.nz (NZ).

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