An Australian Kidney Transplant Recipient's Story

by Lisa Forbes

When I was ten in 1986 I had a kidney fit. My mother called an ambulance and my four year old sister sat by me more terrified than ever. At the local hospital after a spinal tap and various other tests I was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. One left kidney that was not properly formed, that simply just wore out. I was transferred to one of the major children's hospitals, (Prince of Wales) nearly 2 hours away from home where I spent the next two months including Christmas and virtually all of summer.

Whilst in hospital I was taught how to dialyse with Continuous Amblatory Peritoniel Dialysis (CAPD), and take care of myself. I was allowed to go home after this time but only after my house was checked out by the hospital to determine whether it was 'fit' enough for me to live and dialyse in.

I had to stick to a strict diet and not play contact sports or go swimming or do many of the things which I enjoyed. The time on dialysis was not at all enjoyable and it was hard on my family. When I was diagnosed my mother was 5 months pregnant which made constant hospital visits harder for her. We were very lucky that my mother had learnt to drive a few months before because the public transport system is lousy in Sydney. My family was already living in government subsidised housing so we asked for a transfer to a new area, closer to the hospital. The people in the department merely turned around and said that dialysis does not exist and that my mother was "making all of this up". The other problem was that they refused to move us any closer than 10 minutes down the road to where we were already living.

The fact was that I needed a kidney transplant. Nobody in my family was compatible so I needed a cadaver donor. After the worst six months of my life I received the left kidney from a boy who had become brain dead because of injuries form a car crash. Give or take a few years he was about my age and came from Queensland, another state. (I live in Sydney). That is all I know about my donor. I was transplanted at Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney. I was only in hospital for three weeks afterwards. There were basically no problems afterwards; I had a rejection episode but this was to be expected and it was quickly brought under control.

That was nine years ago this June (1995). Since then I have been able to complete school and I am now in my final year of university. I am studying Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury campus which is in Richmond, 2 hours north-west of Sydney. In my course I am looking at ways of increasing the organ donor rate using education. Apart from uni I also work at a Quix service station (we sell petrol and groceries). I have a great social life, a thing I would not have without my kidney, and I can do whatever I like (within reason of course) and I live like any other normal 20 year old. I live with my mother Julie, step father Rick and three younger sisters, Brigid 14, Rebecca 9 and Cassandra who has just started school at 5. We live at Colyton which is about an hour or so depending on the traffic from the centre of Sydney and 15 minutes from the foot of the Blue Mountains.

I have also attended many Kidney Kids Camps which are organised by the Renal Association of NSW. These camps give children with renal failure a chance to get away and at the very least forget their troubles. In 1994 I also competed in the Australian Transplant Games at Shepparton, Victoria where I did not win any medals but I had a great time anyway.

I currently have check ups every couple of months at Westmead Hospital which has the only Renal Pancreas unit in Australia. On Saturday (13 - 5- 1995) they did their 58th kidney - pancreas transplant. This hospital is also closer to my new home. There are not too many things that bother me about having had a transplant. The side effects of the medication can get a bit annoying. For example, the cyclosporin makes my hands shake a little bit and the prednisolone makes my skin tougher so when I have blood tests, they sometimes hurt more. Immunosuppresents also lower your immune system but I manage to stay quite healthy, I have even missed out on catching the flu for the last few winters, meanwhile everyone else seemed to have it. The drugs can also increase the chances of developing cancers which worries me a lot but I can also see that there is no point to worrying.

I know for sure that if it wasn't for my transplant I might not be at uni, as happy as I am or even alive. I can never thank my donor enough and so I don't mind not knowing him.

I would love to receive any mail from anyone any where. If you don't speak English, write to me (care of the transplant webmaster) anyway and I'll have your mail translated.