SARAH Attwell and brother-in-law Mark Berman have always been close, but a very special gift from one to the other has ensured that bond has been immeasurably strengthened.
Mrs Attwell donated a kidney to Mr Berman in November last year and in doing so has given the 58-year-old father and grandfather a bright new future.
“You live from day-to-day on dialysis, you can’t think about the future,” he said.
“So this is really a whole new life.”
Mr Berman was born with polycystic kidney disease, an inherited condition characterised by the growth of cysts on the kidneys that degrade their functioning.
In Mr Berman’s case, he started suffering significant health problems a few years ago and was given the news a kidney transplant was his only long-term option.
His kidneys had grown to 35cm as the cysts continued to invade – a normal adult kidney is about
10-13cm long – and were virtually useless, even protruding uncomfortably from his body.
That’s when Mrs Attwell stepped forward with an offer that would change the lives of Mr Berman and wife Bronwynne.
“It had got to the point where Mark was so unwell ... and other members of the family were unable to donate for a variety of reasons,” Mrs Attwell said.
“I was healthy and wanted to make the offer, rather than see him on dialysis.”
Without a live donor Mr Berman would have gone on a transplant list that could have seen him waiting for years, like so many others he saw during his regular visits to Tamworth hospital’s renal unit.
In May of 2013, doctors began the preliminary testing in preparation for the transplant, and in June and September of last year Mr Berman’s diseased kidneys were removed.
He was then on dialysis three days a week, for more than five hours at a time, until the November 3 transplant at John Hunter Hospital, which doctors described as “textbook”.
Wife Bronwynne noticed the difference in her husband of 36 years “straight away”.
“He just went from this gaunt, yellow man ... to having so much more energy and looking so much better,” she said.
She becomes understandably emotional when she talks about her sister-in-law’s donation.
“It’s just the most selfless gift someone can give,” she said.
They are all now keen to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, and are urging people to consider donating a kidney to someone in need.
Mrs Attwell left hospital after two days and said after a few weeks she was almost back to normal.
“I look at it as two weeks out of my life ... for something so important to someone else,” she said.
Mr Berman, who sold his Margarita Pizzeria business last year due to his ill health, is now able to look at new business options and travel is also back on the cards for the couple.
Just being well enough again to play with his grandchildren and have them over for “sleepovers” is a wonderful gift.
Mr Berman’s health is the best it’s been in decades and the anti-
rejection drugs he’ll be on for the rest of his life are, for him, just a daily reminder of all he’s got to look forward to.
“They’re a small price to pay for not being on dialysis or not being here at all.”