You are here: Home » Organ need placed in spotlight

Organ need placed in spotlight

WANGARATTA woman Michelle Pursell has shared how a fellow Australian’s kidney donation changed her life.

Having undergone dialysis three times a week for eight years, Ms Purcell underwent a kidney transplant some 13 weeks ago, and reflected on her journey as part of DonateLife week.

Having started yesterday, the campaign DonateLife promotes the importance of signing up to become an organ donor and discussing the decision with your family.

A total of 47,545 Victorians registered as organ and tissue donors in 2022, bringing the total number registered to 1,227,212 – about 23 per cent of the Victorian population. This is below the national average of 36 per cent.

There are currently 1800 people on the waiting list in Australia and one donor can change up to seven lives.

Transplant recipient and three nurses stood next to dialysis machine at Northeast Health Wangaratta Dialysis Unit.
DONATE A LIFETIME: Nurse Maree Nankervis, clinical nurse specialist Michelle McGrillen, Michelle Pursell and associate nurse unit manager Olivia Stephens at Northeast Health Wangaratta encourage people to discuss organ donation with their families.

Ms Pursell said she had a one in a million chance of finding a matching donor.
“I’ve waited eight years for this thinking it would never happen – I started to get very despondent thinking this was going to be the rest of my life and whether I could keep going on with it,” she said.

“Its giving me a second chance of life to be able to live and enjoy my life and my family without being tied to a machine 15 hours a week.”

Kidney dialysis used to control every aspect of Ms Pursell’s life due to her only being able to maintain about five per cent kidney function.

“Dialysis isn’t just 15 hours of your week, it’s your entire lifestyle, you can’t drink very much, basically you can only drink 750ml a day of all fluids,” clinical nurse specialist (CNS) at Northeast Health Wangaratta, Michelle McGrillen said.

“Every bit of fluid Michelle puts into her body would stay in her until she came to dialysis to have it removed.”

Now, thanks to the kidney organ transplant, Ms Pursell can live her life normally.

“With the transplant she has been able to go back to normal and eat and drink what she likes, she’s just got to remember to take her tablets every day,” Ms McGrillen said.

Ms Pursell said the kidney transplant had been a huge weight lifted not only off her but also off those around her. “I’ve noticed a difference with my husband, his whole demeanour has changed and even he said he didn’t realise how much it was affecting him,” she said.

“My transplant coordinator told me everything you’ve learnt is flipped on its head; you can eat whatever you want.”

The kidney transplant has been a life-changing event for Ms Pursell, giving her the freedom of having her regular life back and she said she thinks there should be a push for more people to donate.
“It’s just amazing and we need so many more people to sign up for donation,” she said.

“It’s life saving, it’s sad for the families who have lost their loved ones but at the same time, they’ve given somebody else a chance to live, which nothing else can describe that feeling.”

It is also important for those who are organ donors to have a discussion with their families about their decisions. This is because before an organ is donated, the family’s permission is needed.

You could be on the organ donor list, but your family still has the option to opt-out so it’s important to have that conversation with your family saying this is something I definitely want,” Ms McGillen said.

Anyone who wants to become a donor is encouraged to take a minute out of their day and sign up by visiting or through the Medicare app.

Article and photo by Chloe Jaenicke from the Wangaratta Chronicle published Monday 24 July 2023