Five years ago, Services Australia Social Worker Veronica made headlines for being part of the largest exchange of organs in Australian medical history. It involved 7 donors, 7 recipients, 6 hospitals across 3 cities.
Usually a kidney donation occurs between two people who know each other. In Veronica’s case, her sister offered to donate one of her kidneys. Unfortunately, tests revealed her sister wasn’t the best match, so doctors suggested they join the Organ and Tissue Authority’s Paired Kidney Exchange Program.
When a potential donor and recipient aren’t a compatible match for organ donation, the program uses a computer algorithm to identify other possible matches.
The beauty of the paired kidney exchange program is that it makes transplants available to people who might otherwise not survive waiting for them.
Before receiving her transplant, Veronica was unwell with anaemia, chronic fatigue and body aches.
“My kidneys were functioning at just eight per cent and I had planned to start dialysis,” she said.
“I couldn’t go grocery shopping without having to take regular breaks, I’d be in agony.”
Since receiving her kidney transplant, Veronica says it’s the simple things in life she’s most thankful for.
“Now, I can get through a whole grocery shop. I can help at my kid’s school canteen, I can exercise. It’s the day-to-day things that have really changed for the better, and I’m especially grateful for this,” she said.
When Veronica received the call to say a match had been found, she was blown away.
“I couldn’t believe that a complete stranger was a more compatible match than my own sister!” Veronica said.
“I kept asking – ‘are you sure?’”
Before the transplant, Veronica described feeling as though she had cement in her veins. As a result of the operation, Veronica’s kidney function is now greatly improved.
She continues to share her story as a way of raising awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation. She has participated in the Big Red Kidney Walk and has held fundraising drives at her son’s primary school, with all the funds raised going to Kidney Health Australia.
DonateLife Week 2020 is Sunday 26 July to Sunday 2 August. A time to honour and thank all organ and tissue donors and their families across the country.