Waikato woman Liz Alexander donates kidney to a complete stranger
It was a dark and gloomy day thanks to ex-cyclone Donna's tail, but somehow Liz Alexander brightened up the room.
Was it her vibrant, outgoing personality, the dress she was wearing or perhaps it was the metaphorical halo that hovered above her head - after all, she did save somebody's life.
She wore a white dress covered in red roses while she sat on the L-shaped couch in her lounge.
I sat down before she asked if I wanted a cup of coffee.
I kindly declined.
Running a food trailer called Pancakes are Delicious, Liz is a barista by day, and in hindsight, I should have accepted that coffee.
Liz is used to listening to her customers stories, but now the barista has a story of her own to tell. The Onewhero woman has donated her kidney to a complete stranger.
It all started in October 2016 while Liz and her husband, Vincent, were watching a television series called Good Sorts.
"I saw it on tele," said Liz.
"My husband was sitting there," as she pointed to one of the many seating spots on the large couch.
"I said, 'oh my gosh, that amazing lady. That Lianne is just amazing'. I turned to (Vincent) and he said, 'I know what your going to say'.
"I want to do that," said Liz.
Vincent raised the question, why? And for Liz, this was a simple question to answer.
The prospect of not being able to have children is daunting. Many people grieve, many people suffer, but Liz found a solution.
"We just weren't able to have children ... it's the way it's meant to be," Liz said in a soft voice that began to shudder.
"I believe in God, and God gives us a gift - I didn't get the gift of singing, I certainly didn't get the gift of music but I got the gift to serve. That is my whole (purpose) in life, to serve. To serve people as a barista, to listen to stories, to enjoy other peoples' company and to give.
"My kidney can be my legacy."
It took 24 hours after Good Sorts had screened before Liz called Kidney Health New Zealand to ask if she was eligible to donate an organ. She would have done it sooner, but the show aired on the weekend, which meant Liz had to wait until the Monday to get a hold of them.
However, in order to be eligible for donation, a series of health tests must be carried out before you can be considered a suitable donor, which was a slight problem as Liz had some minor health issues. .
"When you ring up, the first thing they ask you for is a little bit of medical history and I thought, 'ooh this could be a bummer'.
"I thought that maybe that was going to be no good."
It took six months of testing before Liz received a phone call from her transplant co-ordinator saying that the tests had been a success and it was "all go" for her operation the following week.
"I just burst in to tears. Oh man it was so exciting.
"I just wanted to be a fly on the wall [when the recipient received their phone call]. I just wanted to listen, because I can just imagine they would have been ecstatic."
According to Kidney Health New Zealand, there are some risks involved with a kidney transplant such as bleeding, infection and in some cases, the donor can develop kidney failure themselves in the future.
Despite this, Liz said she was not afraid of the operation or the risks. In fact, the only thing she was afraid of was being told that the operation wasn't going ahead.
In honour of the children she never had, Liz named her two kidneys Gracie and Lilly.
After three hours under the knife, she woke up and Gracie had been removed.
"When I woke up from surgery, the first thing I said was, 'Have I done it'."
She said she then lifted up her shirt, looked at the bandages and said "Woohoo, I have done it."
It was all smooth sailing from there, Liz said.
She can't wait to serve coffees once again, but in the mean time, she will remain proud and honoured that someone has accepted her gift.
"I just feel blessed that the person actually said yes to me," said Liz.
"I suppose I have saved somebody's life."