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Matts story

7th of June, 2018

I guess you could say like most kidney transplant recipients I have some scars – both physically and emotionally. The biggest thing I wish people could understand about the illness of kidney disease is that it’s invisible to those who don’t know. And so in order to make it visible many of us in the community try to make it visible in many ways whether that be through their vocation, their sport, or even their art. My name is Matt and this is my story of how as a young male, a kidney transplant was the biggest gift I could ever have received. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and brings life to not only the recipient but those around them.

I have always known my kidney was a little special. Throughout my childhood I would regularly go to appointments and have my blood taken without really knowing why. This was all when I was a child growing up in Liverpool without a care in the world as to what might happen to my sole pelvic kidney I would call Billy Bob in time. Affected by reflux but working exceptionally, I didn’t really understand what this could mean other than I only had one kidney.

In my teenage years after the move to New Zealand, my body managed quite well and Billy Bob took the work in his stride. It seemed humourous naming my kidney but I have since realised it was my way of coping with a disease that I had no control of. I have always tried to deal with things through humour and this would be no different I thought until I was much older. Living life like a regular teenager, it had not hit me as something to worry about. I still enjoyed the friends, the nights out, and the sport. I always imagined I would be invincible.

However, in 2015 I had to take onboard the dreaded news. Billy Bob was not coping anymore and in time would need Billy Jean to help. I took the news as you would expect a young twenty five year old who was looking forward to enjoying what the world had to offer and unwilling to hit pause. So I did what any stubborn young male would do knowing they had anywhere between 18 to 36 months before dialysis or transplant. I packed my bag and headed (ran away) overseas where I  eventually ended up in Ireland. It was there I would realise pause was the only option and I couldn’t escape but I had to fight kidney disease. I had enjoyed I needed to come home. My kidney function had dropped to around 12 percent while ill and I had to make the difficult decision to come back to New Zealand. It is this stubbornness that would get me through the biggest fight of my life 18 months later.

While returning to Wellington and trying to adjust to no guarantee of a future with Billy Bob hanging on I began the search for a live Billy Jean. Luckily my brother in law was a match and we waited for the call. It was terrifying and lonely as I don’t know anyone my age facing such a crisis. So instead of hiding I started sharing my story through Facebook and even found myself on the news as I pushed through my limits and ran two 10km races in early 2017 to be  sure I would be as fit as I could be to take on the transplant. By July 5th 2017, I was exhausted and my body was done without any help. I went in for surgery knowing that I was as fit as I could be and my stubbornness nor family and friend’s support couldn’t carry me over anymore finish lines and I had to let go and trust the doctors and nurses around me. This is when I learnt what life was about.

It was a tough journey but in the months that have followed I have managed  a further two 10km races with two more planned in  2018. Tomorrow is my 29th birthday and as I contemplate what it means to me I have to say everything. I was recently able to get engaged, I am proudly able to look at my nephew and look forward to being an uncle he looks up to, and most of all, my family can carry on with their lives for now without sacrificing so much to the detriment of themselves financially and emotionally. But deep down, I can’t get rid of that feeling I am not done. I just want to give because I am so grateful to be here. With hopes of a transplant games in 2019 and continuing to raise awareness by not hiding my story I hope I can urge others to donate or raise funds for those less fortunate than myself as others die waiting. Life is finally worth living again, and now I get to press play again on what is truly the greatest gift another human can give to another – life.