Just one year ago Joe Stolker had just cancelled his 30th birthday celebrations and was about to start planning his funeral.
One year on the engaged father of one is a changed man, and while he can now lead a normal life, he says it is the little things that have meant the most to him so far.
“I can go for a swim, or go to the beach with Levi, have a bath, eat and drink a lot of foods that I couldn’t before like bananas, mangoes and orange juice,” he said.
“We can finish work on Friday arvo and go the pub for something to eat and drink without having to plan it, we can go away spontaneously, go camping, and I am playing golf and squash again.
“It is the little things that people take for granted – my life has changed a truck load.”
Before the transplant Mr Stolker’s partner Leonnee Pinchen-Martin, who is a heart recipient, and son Levi had watched and helped him through 19,710 hours of dialysis over six years, before which his kidney function was at about six per cent.
These days that function is at 56 per cent, and “improving every month”, although the past year hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
“After the transplant I felt instantly better and could feel myself improving, but then I went into acute rejection and had to spend two and half months in hospital to treat it,” he said.
“After I came home I also got a virus and then shingles because my immune system was so run down, but everything is really good now – it is just unreal not to be on dialysis.”
Asked if he ever felt like the rejection would end with him back on dialysis he didn’t give his brain didn’t give his body the chance.
“You can’t think like that – I knew I had to just push through the processes and meds.”
“My life, and my families lives have completely changed.”
Mr Stolker is now eyeing off his next two big challenges, and while one might be about training and commitment, the other is a lot more difficult.
“I am drafting a letter to the donor’s family, but it is very difficult to put it into words, and you have to be really careful with details because it is anonymous,” he said.
The other challenge is participating in the Australian Transplant Games in the next two years.
“It would be great just to be involved and meet other people in similar scenarios.
“I ran into another local recipient and we are even thinking about putting a local team together.”
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