A Mother’s transplant gift to save her son– Judy & Terry’s story
At 65 Judy Salt looks a picture of health, even just shortly after donating her left kidney to her 42-year-old son Terry in December 2014.
Diagnosed with serious kidney problems in their mid-twenties, Judy’s sons Terry and older brother Geoff have both had to endure transplant surgery to save their lives.
Double the trouble
Terry was the first to be diagnosed. At 25 his blood pressure was high and a biopsy of his kidney would reveal startling news – he had lost 50% of his kidney function.
Terry was referred to a kidney specialist who put him on medication to bring his blood pressure under control.
Almost a year to the day, Terry’s older brother Geoff then 27 and living in Melbourne, contacted his mother to say he was unwell.
“He was getting massive headaches – so I insisted he go to the doctor. They found that he had very high blood pressure, the same as Terry,” Judy said.
“Geoff required a kidney biopsy as well. I remember sitting in the hospital in Melbourne thinking to myself – is this really happening?”
The news wasn’t good. Geoff’s biopsy revealed almost the same result as Terry – he had lost 50% of his kidney function.
“Here’s the two of my children with the same diagnosis just over a year apart. At the time I just couldn’t believe it, I still can’t in a way,” remembers Judy.
Under the care of different medical teams, Terry and Geoff were both put on medication, which enabled them to lead reasonably normal lives despite their ailing kidneys.
That was until about 10 years ago when Geoff suddenly went in to renal failure.
Geoff needed a kidney transplant
Neither Judy nor Geoff’s father were compatible to be a donor for their son.
“Geoff started on peritoneal dialysis and continued this routine for about 10 months; every night of his life for about 10 hours. It meant no social life. He wasn’t feeling very well and his quality of life was fairly poor. “
Worried about her son, Judy was on her way over to see Geoff when he called to say the hospital had been in touch – they had a kidney for him.
“Geoff received the kidney and it has been functioning for almost 10 years.”
“He was so, so lucky. Our family was given a special gift by a complete stranger. It really is incredible and I thank those people for making that choice under such difficult circumstances,” Judy said.
While Geoff slowly recovered, Terry’s condition was being closely monitored by Royal Adelaide Hospital Nephrologist Professor Toby Coates.
“I was in pretty good health until late 2013 when I contracted a virus that really wiped me out. I was sick for 8 – 9 weeks and it took a big toll on me and especially my kidneys,” Terry recalled.
Could Judy be a match this time?
As Terry’s kidney function continued to decline, Judy was undergoing tests to see if she could become a living kidney donor for her younger son.
It was good news at last – not only was Judy compatible – she was an A1 match – the very best possible outcome.
After all the testing and preparations which took the best part of a year Terry received a kidney from his mother in December 2014.
“I know he is incredibly grateful – he says it’s the most precious thing. But you just don’t question something like this – any parent would do just what I have done.”
“I was a perfect match and healthy. I would say to anyone it was the very best thing we could do to help our child,” Judy said.
Six months on from their transplant surgery, Judy and Terry are both looking and feeling well. Terry is back at work and even managing a round of golf.
“It really is so hard to put our gratitude in words. Professor Coates has always said it’s his job – but how do you thank the people that do this work – who make this happen and really save your life?” Judy said.
“The care, the attention and the dedication is something you can’t measure.”
“We have been incredibly fortunate. To have the care we have received and the research that has been done to help improve our lives – this would never have been possible if it wasn’t for medical research,” she said.