Become an organ donor

By Jessica Ball

Organ donation is an issue close to my heart.

More accurately it's a little further down, closer to my kidneys.

I've lost count of the number of times I've offered to donate a kidney to give my Mum a better quality of life.

She will always say no.

She’s obsessed with the prospect of grandchildren no matter how far off they may be and while I could live a largely normal life with one kidney it could make carrying a child to term more difficult and that's a risk she's not willing to take, even if I am.

Plus she’s saving my kidney in case my brother needs one too.

Both my Mum and younger brother have polycystic kidney disease; an inherited, chronic disease that gradually makes it harder for the kidneys to work as they should.

The disease skipped me. I am not a carrier and ready for harvest (I did inherit by Dad's dark sense of humour).

I’ve known this all my life. But until it wasn't until the last few years that the reality has hit.

With mum's kidney function dropping to 9 per cent she started nightly dialysis at home. 

Then the specialist decided to remove one of her kidneys to make room for a transplant later down the track.

I don't pretend to be a medical expert but I believe this was a rare step and more often a transplant recipient will live the rest of their lives with three kidneys.

But Mum is only petite and her kidneys much larger than normal - as the surgeon described what should have been the size of a large fist was more like a football.

We almost lost Mum to that surgery. The surgery that was to prepare her for life-saving surgery.

After that she swore she'd never have the transplant.

Eventually the home dialysis stopped being effective and it was time for the thing she was hoping to avoid - going to hospital three days a week for dialysis.

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday Mum is attached to a machine in a hospital wing from 9 am until 2 pm to keep her kidneys functioning.

On December 20, 2018 (my Dad’s and Mum's Mum's birthday) we got the news that Mum was officially on the wait list.

She was told it should be about a two-year wait but it could be up to five.

My Mum is one of the lucky ones. Other than her kidney she’s in good health, she hasn’t been blacklisted because of a smoking habit, being overweight or being considered too old.

A kidney will change her life. It will give her back her freedom, her energy, her ability to work on the farm and look forward to the future. It will give us more time.

Despite my family history it was only two years ago that I registered as an organ donor.

I had always had every intention of donating but I was lazy and I assumed it would involve extensive paperwork. 

All I needed was my Medicare card, name and birth date.

I understand becoming an organ donor isn't for everyone, but if you really don't care what happens to your body after you die, why not? 

Why not in your families time of sadness, give another family the gift of life? 

Maybe my Mum could return to normal life sooner or maybe someone who doesn't currently qualify for a transplant because there aren't enough organs to go around could get a second chance.

This week is DonateLife Week, an initiative to encourage people to become an organ and tissue donor. For more information go to donatelife.com.au

Jessica Ball is The News' features and special publications editorial coordinator.