Vic and Sue’s Story (Western Australia)

I first met my Stepdaughter, Sue (then 25) in 1998, through her Mother, Carol, who I later married. Sue had been diagnosed with renal problems at age 18, and at 24 began dialysis for the next five years. She worked full time for the Red Cross for four years of her dialysis period and the last year of dialysis part time. The Red Cross were wonderfully supportive and understanding of her condition and Sue is still working there today.

For 4 years, on three nights a week, after work, Sue would drive herself to the RPH Shenton Park Satellite Dialysis Unit (WA), spending between 5 or 6 hours on dialysis, arriving home late and then fronting up for work the next morning as usual. Due to her declining health, Sue changed to part time work for the remaining 12 months of her dialysis, which allowed her to have the treatment during the day instead, on her off days. This reduced some of the pressure on her condition. I was always in awe of Sue’s courage and determination to keep working, despite the impact on her health and the fact she could easily have qualified for a Disability Pension.

I visited Sue on a number of occasions at the Dialysis Unit, and always felt saddened that Sue and the other patients had no choice but to be there 3 times a week if they wanted to live. As well as this, there were regular tests, check ups and minor operations for Fistula’s from time to time as well as an assortment of daily medications. Sue’s health was beginning to fail further due to 5 years on dialysis and it seemed the dialysis was not working as effectively anymore.

I was aged 61, and had a heart condition (tachycardia). I tell you this so you know that a medical condition does not necessarily exclude someone from being a live donor. Without Sue’s knowledge, I approached Sue’s Nephrologist and asked to be tested to see if I was a compatible donor. My Cardiologist gave me the green light subject to certain conditions being met during the operation. I had a series of initial tests carried out and by now, due to necessary blood cross matching for both parties, Sue’s Nephrologist had to inform her of my offer. Sue was overwhelmed to say the least. A period of anxiety followed for both of us while we waited for the final test results which were ok. All systems go!

Our operations were performed on 25th November 2002 at RPH and were a success. I was discharged shortly afterward, with Sue being discharged a bit later. This is because recipients need to have anti rejection drugs administered and monitored before their discharge. These drugs also must be monitored and taken by the recipient thereafter for the life of their donated organ.

Why did I donate? Well, apart from the obvious, I felt extremely humbled by Sue’s courage, unselfish and uncomplaining nature, despite the handicaps she had to face, and the condition she had to endure for so long. At 61, I had lived a good life, and was honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to do something for my Stepdaughter’s well being and future.

It has been 13 months now since her operation, and Sue is looking better than she has ever been in the time I have known her. Last November 2003, at age 30, Sue was married to her long time supportive boyfriend Justin, and to see her on their Wedding Day, radiant and happy, and both dancing the night away made it all worthwhile. I still feel elated seeing the difference it has made to the quality of Sue’s life, although this elation is tempered with apprehension because of the unpredictable life of a donated organ, something all recipient families would understand.

My wish for Sue and Justin is that they have many, many happy years ahead of them. I have absolutely no regrets at my decision to donate. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life and I would have no hesitation doing it over again.

I would also like to pay tribute to all the wonderful Nephrologists, Urologists, Surgical Teams, Clinic and Nursing Staff for their before and after care, life support and operational skills. These wonderful people go largely unheralded and are responsible for making it all happen. Thank You!