A wife of a kidney transplant recipient has shared an heartfelt letter online to the family of her husband's donor.
"I want you to know a part of your loved one is very much alive in my husband ... we will be forever grateful for your loved one's selfless decision to be a donor," Toni Rielly wrote on a Facebook community page.
The Lower Hutt family celebrated the two-year anniversary since Rielly's husband Anthony received his kidney transplant from a deceased donor on Sunday.
Speaking to the Herald today, the couple relayed the significant impact that 3am life-saving phone call two years ago has meant to them.
"It's given us our lives back. We now have the freedom of being able to go away for the weekend when we want and accept dinner invitations, and we're not scared that we won't get to grow old together," Rielly said while shedding tears.
Ever since Anthony received the transplant they had wanted to write to the family of the donor to thank them but found it difficult to find the right words that would give the letter justice.
"We were just heightened with emotions yesterday and it just felt right to sit down and pour everything we were feeling out on paper," Rielly said.
Anthony was born with reflux nephropathy kidney damage which is a condition where the kidneys are damaged by the backward flow of urine into the kidney.
However, it wasn't until he turned 31 years old that his kidney failure started to take effect and he became reliant on a dialysis machine to remove excess water solutes and toxins from his blood.
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For more than two years he was hooked up to the machine for nine hours a day in order to stay alive.
"I had to take on the role of caregiver, counsellor, housekeeper, as well as try to work full time myself," Rielly said.
The now 36-year-old father - who had been on the transplant waiting list for two years - said he never expected to get a call that soon and nothing had prepared them for the emotions they felt the day they got the call.
"I remember we were driving along the motorway to the hospital and it suddenly dawned on me what it would mean for someone else and I felt guilt that I was so excited about the situation when there was a family that was grieving the loss of a loved one," Anthony said.
In Rielly's letter she said: "Our daughter who has autism struggled to understand the changes to her normal life routine. Her dad could no longer play with her. We were just existing ... just.
"Then your loved one's decision to be a donor not only saved my husband's life, but gave me my life back, and a daughter her dad back.
"I want you to know my husband is looking after your loved one's kidney. He takes his medication like clockwork.
"He makes sure he follows the dietary guidelines even though he would LOVE to eat ham, soft cheeses, thick shakes, he wont risk it. He keeps himself hydrated, and can now exercise again."
Since posting the letter the couple have received an "overwhelming" response from people whose lost loved ones donated an organ, others who had received organ donations, and people who are still waiting but say they now have hope.
One person said: "My dad received a kidney (live donation) and it changed our lives. My dad could play football with me and my younger brother again, he could go for walks on the beach, he could go on holidays, he was able to see me graduate high school and university. We had gotten so used to having a dad that was sick, that having a dad that was healthy and we knew would be there for our futures is the biggest blessing ever. It'll be seven years this year! Organ donation is a life saver and this letter so perfect."
Another said: "My 20-year-old brother donated all of his organs recently. Thank you so much for sharing this."
"Beautifully written and thanks for sharing! We have a little boy that may need a kidney transplant one day," another said.
Dr Nick Cross, National Renal Transplant Service clinical director, said being a donor was an amazing thing to do for a stranger and can be life-transforming for those who receive organ donations.
"It gives them time back that they would otherwise be hooked up to a dialysis machine, it gives them a better outlook, the ability to exercise and work. It's the quality of life they will get," Cross said.
"The benefit is huge and need is ongoing."
About kidney donations in New Zealand:
• About 450 New Zealanders are on the national kidney transplant waiting list at one time.
• The average waiting time for a patient to receive a kidney donation in New Zealand is four years.
• About 200 kidneys are donated to New Zealanders in need each year.
• There are three main types of kidney donations - one is from a deceased person, another is from a willing and healthy family member who knows them, the third is from an anonymous live donor.
• Another way is through a donor chain where several non-matching pairs of patients and willing donors are linked up, then the available kidneys are shuffled around so that all the recipients end up with the organ that's the best fit for them, regardless of their relationship with the donor.