Partner's sacrifice for Miriam's new kidney
ON MARCH 1, 2013, Miriam Tasker was diagnosed with kidney failure and her life changed forever.
Her life was punctuated by the disease, with years of hospital visits, doctor appointments, and being hooked up to machines for hours with a catheter in her abdomen, waiting for a donor kidney to be available.
But now there is a new circle on her calendar that stands out. On June 16, she will have a kidney transplant.
"I'm excited, and I'm scared at the same time," Ms Tasker said.
"We've been working up to this for a little time, but you'd hear doctors say different things, but last Monday they rang up and said we've got a date.
"But there's still so much to do between now and then - I'm a little overwhelmed."
The date is not just significant for Miriam, but for her partner Campbell Lynne, who will give up his kidney to another kidney patient as part of a paired donor exchange program.
"We've been doing the work-up for over a year to see if we could go into the exchange program," Miriam said.
"At first Campbell was being tested to see if he could donate to me, and then to others and then they gave him the all-clear to be part of the program."
For Campbell, the requirements were strict for the program to work.
"They had to make sure I was 120% fit, because the aim is not to make me sick and for me not to end up on dialysis," Campbell said.
"I had to go through psychologist tests so they know you understand what you're doing, to be living with only one kidney."
As part of the program, Campbell's kidney will go to a random person, and Miriam will receive another kidney as part of the exchange involving six couples from around Australia all on the same day.
"We'll be the only couple at the PA (Princess Alexandria Hospital) and I'll go in first to donate the kidney, and then Miriam will go in for her operation," Campbell said.
"And while it does scare me to give up a kidney and live like that, I realise that somewhere out there someone else needs a kidney, and their partner is getting ready to do the same thing.
"So we're not the only couple scared and really happy at the same time."
And while the hospital time for Campbell should be about four days, for Miriam, who will have her immune system suppressed before the operation, the recovery process is a little more complicated.
"I'll be in hospital for around a week after the operation and then I have to go back into the hospital every morning to have my blood tested in the morning to count the antibodies, so they can adjust the medication I'll be on," Miriam said.
"That medication will be around 40 pills a day, which was something I wasn't comfortable with, but I haven't been comfortable with much of what I've had to do."
Even after this six-week period, the testing reverts back to once a week at the hospital, and the family will relocate from their Coutts Crossing home for as long as needed, something recent community fundraising will help with.
"The fundraiser was just fantastic," Miriam said. "It's just amazing to know that people out in the community are willing to help."
Afterwards, Miriam still needs to be careful with her diet and lifestyle, the disease still leaving her susceptible to skin cancer and any normal diseases her body would normally fight off.
"Basically my immune system is being kept on a knife's edge; good enough to fight anything I may get, but not enough for it to attack the kidney," she said.
Despite the hardships, Miriam is looking forward to the date that may extend her calendar for many years.
"Everyone who's had the transplant just hasn't looked back; they get their life back and they feel healthy, because you just get so used to feeling so crappy all the time," she said.
"We met a man in Tamworth recently, who was one of the first ones to have a transplant, who has had his for 47 years - and when you consider that you're told five years is normal, and anything over 10 is good, it does give you some hope."
For Campbell too, he says the experience has shown the family a new appreciation for the life they have.
"It's changed the way we look at everything," he said.
"You hear people having problems about property or little things, but something like this really gives you a perspective on your life."