Perfect match: You’ve won my heart ... now have my kidney
SOMETIMES in life people can meet their perfect match, but for Jeff and Shannon Dowsett, their match is nothing short of miraculous.
The Brisbane parents have a love story to tell like no other. Thirteen years ago when Jeff met Shannon, he was smitten and gave her his heart - now the love of his life has his kidney.
Shannon, struggling with end-stage renal failure, faced a dire Christmas in hospital hooked up to a dialysis machine.
She would have been placed on the national organ transplant waiting list, which at last count had 995 people desperate for a new chance of life - kidneys are most in demand. Shannon's family members were tested to see if they were suitable to donate one of their kidneys but it was Jeff, not a blood relative, who had the most compatible organ.
"We were a bit shocked that Jeff's kidney was the best match and had a big decision to make, as we have two young children aged seven and five and they were our main concern," Shannon told The Sunday Mail.
"There was always a chance that my body would reject the kidney and it would all be for nothing."
Progressive medical science means that a live kidney donor does not have to be a blood relative or even the same blood type.
Kidneys are matched on tissue typing, physiology and immunology.
The Queensland Renal Transplant Service performs 30 living kidney donor transplants per year.
Shannon has been seriously unwell for more than a decade. In 2006, then aged 26, she was told she needed open heart surgery. It was then that doctors discovered she had an incurable kidney disease, mesangiocapillary glomerulonephritis, which would progressively cause her kidneys to shut down.
In 2014 she had her second heart operation.
"No one knows how long Jeff's kidney will hold up but we live for each day. It feels amazing that I am well enough after the transplant to enjoy a Christmas with my family, and will have the energy to cook them dinner and have fun with the kids. That is the greatest gift," she said.
It's been more than six months since the successful organ transfer at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and Jeff is fighting fit. There is the risk of bleeding and blood clots and a small risk of death for the kidney donor.
"I probably wouldn't play any contact sport again or do any heavy drinking, but I have bounced back really well,'' he said.
"There were very worrying moments but there is no better feeling that knowing that I have Shannon in my life - hopefully, for a lot longer - and my kids get to grow up with their mum.