A small girl lies in a hospital bed, short for her age and with a protruding tummy. Her eyes are shut in a way that suggests little life is left behind them. Cords and tubes connect her to the machines that are keeping her small body alive.
That little girl is now 21, and after undergoing two kidney transplants within six years, she has never been happier or healthier.
Beccky Johns was born with infantile polycystic kidney disease. It’s thanks to her parents, Sue and Paul that she is still here after they each donated one of their kidneys to their daughter. “I feel like no matter where I go, I always have them with me. I still have 15 percent of dads kidney inside of me and a full functioning kidney of mums.”
DonateLife Week is a timely reminder for Australians to consider registering as organ donors, a choice that changes lives and one that Johns is very grateful for. However her first transplant wasn’t without difficulties. “Everything was a success until we hit 24 hours after. The kidney had lost blood supply. I cannot tell you how many times I was rushed back into theatre thinking I was going to die.”
In a recent interview for Sunrise during DonateLife Week, Johns told Nick Etchells about the moment her mum broke the news. “She said the kidney transplant has gone wrong. They’re going to have to take the kidney out tomorrow and you’ll start dialysis. I said NO! Dad gave me that kidney for my 12th birthday. I wasn’t going to let them take it out.” Her determination paid off. She managed to keep 15 per cent of the kidney, a feat that doctors still cannot explain.
It’s almost four years since Johns received another kidney from her mother Sue, and although things are looking up the road hasn’t been smooth, “It was tough on me growing up, I felt like my disease stopped me from doing a lot of things normal teenagers do.”
According to the DonateLife website, approximately 1500 people are on the Australian organ transplant waiting list at any given time. In 2013, 1122 Australians were given another chance at life as a result of organ donations from 391 donors.
Eventually Johns will need another kidney transplant, but she remains optimistic. Her health has improved so much that she is planning a trip to the US. “I am beyond excited because all my life it has been my number one, ultimate bucket list thing to do before I die. With my health, I never thought it would be possible.”
Johns has already faced more obstacles than the regular person would face in a lifetime, and her message to Australia is simple: “Please think about donating your organs! It’s not something we like to think about but as you’re saying goodbye to one life you’re opening the door for another life. My kidney transplant has given me a new life I never thought was possible.”