My Dad didn’t pee for seven years.
Luckily, there is a machine that could clean his blood for him, and luckily, Dad finally had a kidney transplant. While the dialysis machine can keep you alive, the body is still not functioning naturally. All the drugs you have to take only deteriorate other parts of your body, your mind, your stability.
Dad was grateful that the machine kept him alive, he was always positive. After all, he often said that the cancer patients he had seen in hospitals were much worse off. He smiled past his own difficulty. It must have been hard when he was pacing the house all night due to restless legs syndrome. He didn’t have a nurse but had the machine set up in our home. Three days a week crimson tubes snaked his body as blood was filtered and transported back into his veins. My sister and I helped him to pull the needle out at the end. Blood never worried us, but on the odd occasion I could tell a friend was uncomfortable by the sight.
When out and about, people often stared disapprovingly at the scarred vesicle on his arm – coupled with his pale and drawn appearance, it was an easy mistake to make.
Having someone ill in your family puts a strain on relations. My sister and I were teenagers, experiencing our own ups and downs. To be honest, there is a certain amount of guilt involved for the family member of someone who is sick. We always had to be home to pull the needle out and I remember sometimes resenting this, then feeling guilt at my resentment. Everyone else seemed so lucky and fancy-free. Some of the drugs he took also made him aggressive. What’s worse is worrying about your parent’s mortality. Sometimes the machine would beep. The patient can ‘go flat’ and pass out. If the right actions aren’t taken, the patient can die. I remember the quick bile in my throat, the way my heart raced when the machine would beep. Most of the time it was just that levels had to be adjusted, more fluid, less fluid etc. But the fear permeated daily existence.
My Dad now celebrates two birthdays a year. In January 2007 he was 53, and in May he was 3. The kidney didn’t come from anyone he knew. All of the family had been tested. Mum wasn’t able to give him one due to her own health. My sister and I were not allowed because we have not yet had children, and two kidneys are needed for healthy childbirth. My boyfriend at the time offered, but was not a good enough match. My Dad has seven brothers and sisters – none offered, but that is another sad story.
Dad got lucky when some poor person died too young. Dad wasn’t the only one. Other patients received organs too. At first the anti-rejection drugs made Dad a mess. He had a face like a balloon and he cried every two seconds. There was also the strange new wonder of peeing! For the first few months Dad couldn’t even go on public transport because he’d have to get out at every stop and find a toilet. His retrained bladder is still like a pea.
Everyone that sees Dad now is amazed that he is the same person. He is radiant. He has truly learnt about living life to its fullest. He’s on his second wind. Another 2-3 years on the machine and his bones would have deteriorated, not to mention his mental health.
A donated kidney doesn’t last forever, but the receiver is acutely aware of the gift of his/her existence. And so is their family. I don’t know where I’d be without my Dad’s encouragement, his smile, his ‘Dad jokes’, his advice, his confidence, his hugs.
Many people are naïve about organ donation. They think their organs are only going to go to some drug addict who has self-destructed his liver. If they’re religious, they believe if their body doesn’t decompose as a whole, then their soul will falter. My belief is, when you die, you’re not going to know what happens to your body. Isn’t it better to give someone else a second lease on life, perhaps several people, than to give it to the worms?
In Australia, there are more than 1700 people waiting for organ transplants. To register as an organ donor in Australia:
In the UK:
In the US:
For more success stories:
Kidney Health Australia (help raise money for people on dialysis to lead normal lives, especially children):
My healthy family today.
BlogCatalog Community Organ Donation Awareness Campaign: