Kidney best birthday present ever
The gift of life was more than Sam Te Kawa could have ever wished for on his birthday.
But that's exactly what he got when his wife of 31 years, Anne, donated her kidney to her beloved husband earlier this month.
"Donating my kidney to my husband was the best gift I could ever have given; July the 14th was his birthday and that's all he wanted," Anne said.
After more than three years on dialysis - seven hours a day, three days a week - and more than a year of tests for Anne, Sam received the news in June that his wife was a tissue match and could donate her kidney.
Sam, whose condition was hereditary, said he was beyond grateful to his wife for her gift. "It's been really good, I feel really good, it worked straight away."
Anne said she became tired of seeing her husband struggle, so the pair sold their home in Dannevirke and moved to Palmerston North in 2011 to be closer to the health care he needed.
"When we were told in June all systems were go for the operation, at first it was overwhelming . . . but I am grateful to have donated one of my kidneys to Sam, he's the love of my life."
More people should consider live organ donations, she said.
"The decision to donate an organ to a loved one is deep and personal to me. Sometimes I wish everyone thought like that, because there's not enough donors.
"If I had anything to give anyone else, then I'd do it."
Kidney Health New Zealand national education manager Carmel Gregan-Ford said medical advances meant donations between husband and wife were not as rare as they used to be.
"A lot of people see stories like this and they hadn't even considered it or they didn't know they could do it," she said.
"It can change someone's life. Not only can it hugely improve their quality of life, but dialysis can cost about $60,000 a year; a transplant only costs about a third of that."
Just over half of the kidney transplants each year were live donations, but with about 500 people on the waiting list, more live donors were needed, Gregan-Ford said.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced last week an extra $4 million funding would be available to set up a National Renal Transplant Service to increase the number of live kidney donor transplants carried out over the next few years.