DONATE LIFE: Jim Booth reflects on his donor kidney experience.
DONATE LIFE: Jim Booth reflects on his donor kidney experience.

Kidney recipient expresses importance of donation

AFTER his kidney transplant in 2011, Biloela resident Jim Booth was the only man in his cohort of kidney transplant recipients to wake up "on a low".

"They tell you you'll either wake up on a high or on a very low and I was the only one who woke up on a low because I kept thinking someone had died for me to live," Mr Booth said this week.

"I just kept thinking about that and it took a couple of days, but the doctors calmed me down."

Now, with Donate Life Week coming up on July 28-August 4, Mr Booth is determined to make the most of each day, and to encourage others to talk about the importance of organ donation.

He said he writes anonymously once a year to the family of his organ donor on the anniversary of his transplant.

"I keep in touch with donor's family, and I send the letters to DonateLife and they read it and forward it on.

"And she always answers back - her husband died for me to be able to continue on."

Mr Booth, who is also a carer for his blind 87-year-old mother who lives with him, said he was born with one kidney but had no idea this was the case until later in life.

He served in the army from 1973-93, then worked in Biloela's abattoir for 14 years.

"I was crook for 12 months until someone did a simple test and found out I only had one kidney

"I had lost about 10kg and everyone thought I had cancer."

Kidney Health Australia has estimated that 1.5 million Australians are unaware they are living with kidney disease.

Mr Booth was diagnosed and had a blood transfusion in 2008 and was on dialysis for three years before the transplant which was carried out at Brisbane's PA Hospital on September 2, 2011.

"I was on 10 hours of dialysis every night from 8pm to 6am. I had my own machine and it was very gentle.

"My single kidney was failing - it was down to 4% when I got the transplant. I was very lucky as I am the most common blood group, O+."

He said that after the transplant he felt "great" but suffered organ rejection straight away.

The kidney was saved through plasma exchange, and Mr Booth - now nearly 64 - said now he doesn't want to waste the chance at life that he's been given.

"I look at life very differently. I treasure each day - I just find I wasted a lot of my life earlier, I thought."

He gardens for his neighbours, helps an elderly neighbour with the mowing, walks his cousin's three primary school children to school every morning and does his best to look after himself.

"I did 20 years in the army so I've still got a thing about keeping fit.

"And that's why I've given up drinking completely because I don't want to waste what I've been given.

Mr Booth said the transplant unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital "is fantastic" and whenever he's in Brisbane he visits his old ward to thank the nurses and doctors who helped him recover.

"When I was being wheeled into the room for the transplant, the anaesthetist asked if I followed rugby league, and I said I followed Parramatta.

"And he called out to the others, 'We're giving this good kidney to this fellow and he's a Parramatta supporter!"

Every day, Mr Booth wears his Kidney Health Australia hat and he travels to Rockhampton each May for a thanksgiving service for fellow recipients and donor families.

Mr Booth said that it was vitally important people took the time to talk to their families about organ donation.

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