A New South Wales woman awaiting a kidney transplant is recovering well after being plucked from the deck of a Tasmania-bound cruise liner to have her life-changing operation.

Ambulance Victoria said Kathie John was on a ship in the middle of Bass Strait in January when she found out her seven-year wait for a suitable kidney had ended.

The problem? The organ was at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.

Discussions with the ship's medical staff, captain and coast guard led to the ship heading back towards the mainland and AV's air ambulance being called to get the 40-year-old on her way.


Winched to an ambulance helicopter hovering over the cruise ship, the excited patient was flown to Bairnsdale, Victoria, so she could take a plane to Sydney.

Sydneysider Kathie says she hopes the story helps raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. Looking back she says the episode was "gobsmacking".

"I felt like I was on a TV episode of a special operation," she said in a statement by Ambulance Victoria. "It was exciting to know that I was getting a kidney and to see all the work behind it to make this happen for me."

Intensive care paramedic Toby St Clair said the air ambulance crew felt privileged to be involved.

"It was exciting that it was a very successful job and ended up having a wonderful outcome," he said.