Sue Spain is a wonderful grandmother who enjoys spending time with her daughters and grandchildren; she’s a person who at 70 years old understands how precious life really is and how lucky she has been to have a second chance.
The Spain family moved to Gladstone 36 years ago from New Zealand when a work opportunity at the smelter came up for Sue’s husband.
Since her early 20’s Sue didn’t feel well. Between the ages of 25 to 45, she got more and more unwell and was searching for a diagnosis.
Sue said ‘I was jaundice, liver function tests kept getting worse, I had no energy, I just needed to sleep all the time and I was just very very unwell all the time.’’
It took a long time to get a proper diagnosis. Which doctors finally figured out that Mrs Spain had Primary Biliary Cirrhosis that had wrecked her liver.
‘’The specialist in Rockhampton booked me into to Princess Alexandra Hospital (PA) in Brisbane to be assessed. After tests and tests and more tests, they realized that I needed a liver transplant.’’
45 years old, Sue was on a waiting list for a liver transplant. At the time her daughters Erin and Kelly were just 15 and 11 years old.
Luckily Sue was only waiting for three weeks before they found a donor and she was able to have a transplant.
“I’m 70 years old and it will be 25 years ago in December that I had the transplant. It seems like a long time ago but that liver means a lot to me, I wouldn’t have been able to play with my grandchildren without it’’.
Around Christmas every year Sue sits down to write a letter to her donor’s family, she tells them what she has been up to for the year. She tells them about new grandchildren arriving, holidays and writes to them to let them know that she is happy and healthy for another year. It’s her way of thanking the family she has never met but who gave her a second chance at life.
They write back each year too, letting Sue know how they are going and what they have been up to. They are not able to reveal who they are but the letters get sent to the coordinator at the PA Hospital and she sends to each of the families.
When she receives the letter from the donor family she can read between the lines. Sue said ‘’It must be satisfying to think it was not all for nothing, they made the effort to donate their loved one’s organ and I am looking after it and doing well. It’s a really nice feeling and it’s great they know that’’.
When asked what message she would send to people who are considering registering to be an organ donor Sue Spain said ‘’Do it. It’s a wonderful thing to do. It saved my life’’.
To celebrate Organ Donor Week get online and register at donatelife.gov.au it only takes a minute and a Medicare card. You could be receiving an organ one day and Christmas cards each year after.