School librarian gets amazing second chance at life
RECEIVING a phone call at 1am is usually something people dread, but for Bundaberg's Michelle Halpin, the news on the other end was life changing.
At the beginning of last year, Ms Halpin was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, a chronic and painful kidney disease that means the sufferer is unable to survive without eventually receiving a transplant.
After a physically and emotionally taxing process that included undergoing dialysis treatment three days a week, five hours a day and sitting at the top of the donor wait list for 16 months, Ms Halpin was finally offered a second chance at life.
"It's a fairly intricate process waiting to see if you're acceptable to receive an organ," she said.
"I was half asleep when the call came through, so I was a little shocked and in disbelief.
"I was so excited and relieved at the chance of getting my life back, but it was also a bitter-sweet moment because this meant there was a family somewhere grieving the loss of a loved one."
The St Patrick's school librarian was forced to stop working after the debilitating condition meant she was unable to participate in student activities.
"I was locked into endless dialysis to keep me alive and clean my blood, because both my kidneys had failed," she said. "I had five per cent function which wasn't enough to even eat or walk."
Following the kidney transplant, Ms Halpin said she feels incredible and is so grateful for the gift she has been given.
"My kids now have their Mum back, my husband has his wife back and I have my life back," she said.
Wide Bay Health's acting organ donation specialist nurse, Karen Jenner encourages everyone to have the difficult conversation with their families.
"It's an extremely traumatic time and a lot of families have said that knowing their loved one's organs saved another life gives a sense of great comfort down the track," Ms Jenner said.
"If people have to make the decision on your behalf, it makes it so hard for them, but if they know what their family member wants, it takes the choice out of their hands.
"Only one per cent of people who die in hospital in a certain way can actually donate their organs, so people don't realise just how rare it is to be able to actually offer the gift."
A lack of awareness on how to register means there is a discrepancy among those who want to be donors and who are actually registered.
"Only 28 per cent of Bundy residents are on the register, but around 80 per cent would like to be on the donor list.
"Some members of the community don't realise but it isn't on your drivers licence any more, so you need to actually go online with your Medicare card and it takes about 60 seconds, then you're on the national register for life.
Ms Halpin is one of the lucky survivors, with recipients seeking kidney donations, forming one of the nation's largest waiting lists.
The Bundy local does not take her second chance for granted, making a lifelong pact with her donor.
"I don't know the donor but I made them a promise that I would look after their gift and do everything I possibly can to keep the kidney nice and healthy," she said.
"Every morning when I wake up, I thank my donor and every night when I go to sleep, I say a prayer for them and their family."
"From the ultimate act of kindness, I hope that I can pay it forward by showing gratitude each day and by letting a part of them live on inside of me."
To register as an organ donor, visit donatelife.gov.au