Organ recipient's doco bid to start life saving conversation
WHEN Joanne Lee was growing up, she thought constant sickness was normal.
However, at the age of 14, a generous kidney donation showed her the importance of organ donation.
Ms Lee, 32, has lived in Rockhampton for 11 years and is determined to bring the topic of organ donation into Rocky homes.
"It's not just the person going through it, it's their families too,” she said.
"It puts stress on the child and tests their patience too.
"I had a transplant 18 years ago. The only difference was mine was a living transplant. I didn't need to wait. It was from my mum.”
Ms Lee is currently trying to sell the remaining tickets to a screening of documentary Dying to Live at Birch Carrol & Coyle Rockhampton next week.
"It was on SBS in January and I posted on a Facebook group asking what people's opinions on organ donation were,” she said.
"A lot of people weren't too sure about it.
"Someone said they believed in quality over quantity. I think they didn't believe in prolonging life but unless you've been through that or seen a loved one going through that, it's hard to understand why donations are so important.
"Someone else said they would donate but couldn't have a transplant because they thought it would be weird having someone else's organ inside of them.”
Frustrated with the stigmas about donations within the community, Ms Lee decided to bring the knowledge to Rockhampton herself.
"I just want everybody to have that chat with their families,” she said.
"At the end of the day if you're in a coma or brain dead, the doctors will ask your next of kin.
"I want people to see what it's like waiting for a transplant and how much pressure it puts on patients and their families.”
At 10-weeks, Ms Lee was diagnosed with renal failure, and frequented doctors' appointments every few months.
"I thought it was normal and medication was normal,” she said.
"My mum remembers teaching me how to count by counting out my medication.
"My kidney function was relatively stable until puberty, which was when my function started decreasing.”
As Ms Lee became more fatigued, a specialist advised her mother that she would need a transplant or else be put in dialysis.
"Dialysis is definitely not a long term solution and the doctors decided to push the transplant a bit extra to avoid it,” she said.
"I think it takes its toll on you and is a strain on the body.
"Now I definitely have that freedom which I wouldn't have on dialysis, being attached to a machine daily or going to the hospital for three hour cycles three times a week.
"I can travel overseas, and live on my own. Without the transplant, it would've been much harder.”
After receiving the transplant, doctors also picked up a rare genetic disorder in Ms Lee's body called Methylmalonic acidemia (MMA).
"I wasn't recovering from the transplant as expected and my kidney functions weren't where they should be. The numbers weren't coming down to where they were expected,” she said.
"They retested for everything and it came back that I had MMA which means my body can't break down long chain fatty acids and certain types of protein.
"I need to eat and drink water regularly to keep my kidneys flushing and working.
"If I pick up a bug from work I get really sick because I have a compromised immune system.”
Ms Lee said during the pain of losing a loved one, helping others keep their relative alive through organ donation is a way to find closure.
"That person has received life.”
Dying to Live
The documentary is expected to be played at Rockhampton cinema on April 17 at 6.30pm
Book tickets at tickets.demand.film/event/7090
Tickets cost $22