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A big donation

A friendship begun over coffee led Tauranga Salvationist Lianne Bateman to donate a kidney.

I had no idea I was even considering organ donation until the words came out of my mouth: ‘What do I have to do to give you a kidney?’ It was mid 2013 and I had been a regular at a coffee shop near my Salvation Army church, where Frankie Egglestone would serve me and make my coff ee. She was so friendly and engaging, and before long we were on a first-name basis and Facebook friends.

One day I asked her what that thing sticking out above her tee-shirt was. That was when I first learned that Frankie was sick. She had been born with only one kidney that functioned at 30 per cent. When she was seven she received her mum’s right kidney.

However, two pregnancies in close succession in her early 20s put too much strain on the transplanted kidney and it failed. Frankie had a special access port inserted into her jugular so she could attach to a dialysis machine to filter toxins and waste from her body.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a peace about it in my heart and knew it was the right thing to do. It sat right in my spirit. The first thing I had to do was contact the transplant coordinator at Waikato Hospital. Once I registered as a possible donor, the tests began.

It’s just as well needles and the sight of blood don’t faze me! There were lots of blood tests. It was soon apparent that I was not a close match to Frankie. I had different blood types, and the high level of antibodies from her previous transplant meant rejection was almost guaranteed if we went ahead. But we were able to go on the paired transplant waiting list. We passed all the tests and I was considered a viable kidney donor.

What followed was 18 months of silence. We heard nothing about the transplant, and meanwhile Frankie faced some big challenges with her health. At one point she nearly died from septicaemia.

Miraculously, in March 2016, I got a phone call out of the blue asking if I would retest. Frankie’s antibodies had suddenly started decreasing meaning I could possibly directly donate my kidney.

On the morning of 5 October 2016, I walked out of the ward and met Frankie in the corridor where we sat together and cried and laughed. My part in the procedure took four hours, and then they cleaned up the theatre and wheeled Frankie in.

Frankie’s new kidney started working straight away, but after two days it started to slow down and started to show signs of rejection. She was put on chemo and the kidney perked up and started doing its thing.

I came home 10 days after the operation and had a mini meltdown. I was relieved to be home and the magnitude of what happened hit me like a ton of bricks. I had given away a part of my body that was now functioning in someone else’s body.

The challenge isn’t over for Frankie. Her new kidney isn’t working as it should. But what struck me about her when we met was her indomitable spirit. She was honest about the reality of her health, but would often say, ‘But hey, I’m alive.’ I admire her so much because she doesn’t let it dominate her life—but her life was going to end because of it, if something wasn’t done.

I think God was teaching me a lot of patience through this process. And I’ve gained a new family. I trust God and pray that Frankie’s body will work again as it should so she and her daughter can have a long and happy life together.

by Lianne Bateman (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 22 April 2017, pp11
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.