Time running out for Luke as mum's gift gives up the ghost
ROSEMARY Rose loves her five kids so much that she will make any sacrifice for them - including giving them her organs.
Rosemary's middle child Luke was diagnosed with kidney disease at two years old.
For almost 25 years, Luke's kidneys chugged along, doing what they were supposed to do with Brisbane hospital visits becoming par for the course for the lad and his single mum.
About 10 years ago the tired organs gave up the ghost and at 26 years old Luke was forced onto dialysis.
Five hours a day, three times a week, Luke was hooked up to a dialysis machine that filtered waste from his blood until a deceased kidney donor became available.
"Being on dialysis is not a very good quality of life - it might keep them alive and they don't complain about it but it's not a good quality of life," Rosemary said.
In Australia, organ donation can be done via live donors or deceased donors.
Deceased donor transplants rely on the family of potential donors approving the surgery after their loved one is declared brain dead but their body remains on life support.
Organs can also be retrieved from patients with terminal heart or lung failure, or those who have had a very severe spinal injury meaning they cannot breathe unassisted.
One deceased donor may help improve the lives of 10 people. Surgeons can transplant hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys and corneas. Tissue can be used for a range of medical purposes.
Live donors allow a kidney or a lobe of their liver to be transplanted into another person.
Determined to help her son, Rosemary made a stunning announcement that would change the course of both their lives.
"I said to Luke, 'I'll give you a kidney'," the 62-year-old laundry worker recalled.
"He turned to me and said 'You'll have to give up smoking'.
"I've never smoked since - he did me a huge favour."
Donating a kidney can be an arduous process for a young person leading a fit and healthy lifestyle, but it becomes even tougher when you're a smoker and aged over 50.
"I wasn't frightened by the idea," she said.
"I just decided to not eat any rubbish, I wanted to be really healthy, I went to the gym."
Rosemary went through a series of tests to ensure her organ was the best match for Luke and she passed all the tests with flying colours.
The mum and son were scheduled for the life-changing operation in August of 2007.
However, fate intervened.
"I got very sick and they had to put it off," Rosemary said.
"I said I'm sorry and he just said 'It's OK'."
By October, 2007, Rosemary's health was back to normal and the surgery went ahead at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
"It's just something that you do," Rosemary said.
Since receiving his mum's kidney, Luke has done his best to live life to the full, even competing at the World and Australian Transplant Games across a wide array of sports including swimming and soccer.
While some transplanted kidneys last up to 30 years, Luke was not so lucky.
"In June or July last year, my body started to retain fluid and I knew something was wrong," he said.
"I competed at the Australian Transplant Games in September of 2016, but I was feeling very ordinary health-wise.
"I was over-loaded with fluid, I had no energy, no appetite, I was just coming home to bed and sleeping the whole time then getting up and going to work.
"On my days off I would lie down all day."
In June last year he found out the kidney he received from his mum had failed.
"I knew this would come eventually," Luke said.
"I had hoped it would last a lot longer."
The 37-year-old Central Queensland Qantaslink customer service officer is back to his tri-weekly dialysis routine and he is back on the deceased donor list.
"I dialyse three times a week at home before or after work," he said.
"I spend about four hours on the machine every second day.
"I try to sleep while I'm on it or I'll watch TV, do some puzzles or play on the phone."
Being on the donor list is a double-edged sword for Luke.
It means he is reliant on a stranger being declared brain dead, their family approving donation of their organs and the deceased donor's body being compatible with Luke's.
"It's pretty hard knowing someone has to die for me to get a kidney," he said.
"It does weigh me on a bit but I know the alternative of being on dialysis for the rest of my life in not really good either."
Doctors expect Luke to wait 12 months to four years before he gets the call that a kidney is available, but Luke is not resting on his laurels.
He continues to swim and he plans to compete at next year's Transplant Games on the Gold Coast.
"The only thing that will stop me from taking part is if I get a transplant because I will need about six months to recover," he said.
Meanwhile, Rosemary has had to come to terms with the heartbreaking knowledge her gift of life to Luke is dying.
"When he was given my kidney, his had turned to mush," Rosemary said.
"When my kidney started to fail, I was devastated.
"It was like losing a child because I knew I could never do it again - it just broke my heart.
"But he just says 'I got nine years out of it, I'm really happy with that'." - NewsRegional