Mother's sacrifice gave daughter a second chance at life

LONG WAIT: Ipswich nurse Rebecca White had a kidney transplant when she was just 17-years-old. Now, 10 years later she is preparing to go onto the donor list for another kidney.
LONG WAIT: Ipswich nurse Rebecca White had a kidney transplant when she was just 17-years-old. Now, 10 years later she is preparing to go onto the donor list for another kidney. Helen Spelitis

WHILE Rebecca White's high school classmates were worrying about passing their year 12 exams, she was desperately trying to stay alive.

Rebecca was just 12-years-old when she was diagnosed with a rare condition, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis nephrotic syndrome, that causes kidney failure.

The only thing that would save her was a kidney transplant.

Her own mother volunteered to be a live donor and when Rebecca finished school, the operation went ahead when she was 17.

Today Rebecca is a healthy 27-year-old woman, working as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital.

But organs transplanted from other people have a lifetime, and 10 years after Rebecca's operation she is preparing to go through it all over again.

Soon she will go back on the transplant list which, right now, features about 1500 names.

Once Rebecca has had her second kidney transplant, there won't be another one.

It means by the time Rebecca reaches 45, her days may be numbered.

"Every transplant recipient that's waiting is waiting for a second chance but even they know that chance is going to come to an end earlier than it should," Rebecca said.

"I always tell people I faced my mortality before I faced high school.

"So, high school had a very different feel for me than for the average teenager. Instead of thinking about exams and school, and will these things that are normal about being a teenager, the first thing on my mind was; how can I stay alive?

"You get a big picture shift... life is so much bigger and more involved than high school dramas and adventures.

"I just did school when I could do school but my final year of high school was saturated in hospital and doctor visits, daily blood tests and a lot of invasive complicated procedures from being so unwell.

"I did a lot of my exams and assignments from hospital.

"My wake up call came when I was 12-years-old."

In 2016, 106 Queensland organ donors saved the lives of 323 Australians through the donation of 367 organs. According to DonateLife Queensland, since 1965 more than 45,000 Australians have received life saving or life enhancing organ and tissue transplants.

Rebecca has shared her story during DonateLife Week in the hope people will gain a greater understanding of the value in organ donation.

She says no one knows when they will need a transplant themselves.

"I encourage everyone to take the five minutes it takes to sign up online," Rebecca said.

"Don't be buried before you've given your gift of life to someone who needs it.

"Organ donation is unique in that it's not something you can give now. It's something you can only give after you have gone and your own life has ended, your gift can continue on after you're gone.

"It makes your life significant to other people when you're life has come to an end."

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