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To The Organ Donor Who Saved My Friend's Husband: Thank You

There are around 1400 Australians currently awaiting a transplant on the Organ Donor Register, with a further 11,000 on dialysis.

Despite loads of pleas, campaigns and awareness programs the simple fact is that there just aren’t enough donors for people who desperately need organs, even though a single organ and tissue donor can help more than 10 people.

Organ donation is a difficult subject because you’re talking about one person losing their life, leaving their friends and family to grieve the loss of a loved one.

Then you have another individual whose prayers have been answered, their jubilant family celebrating the literal gift of life their loved one has been given.

I’ve known two young fathers awaiting an organ donation, but I'd never heard of anyone who had gone through a successful transplant… until the day one of these men got the call that changed his life.

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Jess and I have been friends for more than 15 years. We bonded over our mutual love for Robbie Williams and all things Buffy. And while our daily lives differed somewhat, we just got each other.

Cam came into Jess’s life at a time when she most needed it. She had gone through a divorce when she was eight months pregnant with her second son and raising two boys under five was providing its own set of unique circumstances. Though she’ll never admit it, life was hard.

Cam and Jess realised they’d found a great partner in one another and were married soon after, blessed with a baby girl the following year.

Cam and Jess on their wedding day. (Image: Supplied)

But throughout their relationship they lived with the knowledge that Cam’s kidneys were failing. They were told around the time of their wedding that Cam would need a transplant, though probably not for at least another 20 years.

But 12 months later, his kidney function went from around 35 percent to below 10 percent and dialysis became quite urgent. He was soon down to nine percent kidney function and getting sicker by the day.

Cam had to start on dialysis every second night at the hospital, leaving Jess at home alone with the three kids.

He eventually got an intrusive dialysis machine installed at home after learning how to use it as well as the painful process of injecting himself with a needle. Being at home was great but he was still unable to do anything for himself or his family for eight hours at a time. He was a slave to that bloody machine.

Jess thankfully had the help of her family, but no one ever really knows the struggle people face behind closed doors -- the emotional toll something like this takes on you, your family and your relationship.

Cam in the hospital with his daughter, Ally. (Image: Supplied)

But not once did I hear her complain. They really nailed the whole “in sickness and in health” part of their vows.

I watched in awe as my strong, fierce, independent friend dealt with the gruelling emotional pain of her husband deteriorating in front of her eyes, trying desperately to hold their new family together.

Cam had been on the transplant list for the past two years and with no family members able to donate a kidney, Cam was at the mercy of a stranger.

Gary Nunn

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Organ Donation Should Be Compulsory Unless You Opt Out

When I flipped open my laptop to start typing up a piece on organ donation, it was going to be a no brainer: Australia should, surely, move to an opt-out system. This, I assumed, would widen the pool of donors and save lives.

And so, they waited…

Then came the phone call they had been so desperately waiting for. I got an excited text from Jess saying that while she didn’t want to get ahead of herself (such was her reluctance to believe it might actually be happening), Cam was at the hospital waiting to go into theatre to receive his new kidney.

When he awoke from the successful transplant surgery the next morning, a relieved Jess took to Facebook to share what her family had gone through:

“I don't even really know where to start... yesterday we got the phone call we have been waiting for, after two long years. Cam received a kidney transplant last night!!!!! After a very long day he came out of theatre at 1:30am and is doing very well. We are so very thankful to the wonderful donor and their family for giving us this gift of life. We are very aware that their heartbreak is the start of our new life. There are just not enough words to express our gratitude to them. As always massive thanks to our wonderful family and friends for all the support. It will be a long couple of months but knowing we have you all helps so much.”

Cam and the kids: Lincoln, Ally and Jake. (Image: Supplied)

Jess and Cam know the road ahead won’t be easy and there’s every chance they’ll have to do it all again. But for now, there is nothing but gratitude and hope.

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I have no words to describe the sacrifice this anonymous donor made or the heartache their family is currently enduring. But from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Thank you for giving Cam a new lease on life and for giving my friend a future with her young family that she can now plan for. Thank you for giving Jake, Lincoln and Ally a father who will now be able to kick the footy, pick them up for cuddles and plan for holidays without having to be within one-hour of a dialysis facility.

To all donors and their families, know that you have left an indelible mark on someone’s life. That is a legacy to be proud of.

DonateLife Thank You Day is Sunday 17 November.

Thinking of becoming a donor? Consider discussing your decision with loved ones so they know your wishes and check out DonateLife for more information.