Tullimbar mum Amy Champness' second chance after double organ transplant

Gift of life: Tullimbar resident Amy Champness is grateful every day to her organ donor. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Gift of life: Tullimbar resident Amy Champness is grateful every day to her organ donor. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Thanks to a double organ transplant NSW Shellharbour mum Amy Champness is enjoying a second chance at life, free of the diabetes she'd lived with since she was a child.

The 42-year-old, who talked to the Mercury during DonateLife Week, had a kidney and pancreas transplant at the beginning of 2019. And she won't soon forget the phone call from the hospital to let her know her wait for a transplant was over.

"The call came at 11.37 in the morning," she said. "I was excited and nervous - but also sad, as I knew the reason the call came was because someone, somewhere was losing someone they loved."

Ms Champness, of Tullimbar, had been diagnosed with diabetes at 11 years old, yet it wasn't until her mid-thirties that complications from the disease led to her needing a toe amputation. And her health went downhill from there.

"A side effect of diabetes can be the loss of feeling in your feet, and so I didn't realise I'd had a splinter in my toe until it became so infected that the infection went to the bone," she said.

"My toe couldn't be saved and I had it amputated in 2013. Soon after the surgery it was discovered that I was allergic to the iodine used, which shut my kidney down and it never recovered.

"I underwent testing to see if I would be suitable for a transplant, and by the end of 2018 - having started dialysis - I was desperately in need of one. I needed the double transplant as the two organs work better together - afterwards I was no longer diabetic."

Mrs Champness has since become a tireless advocate for organ and tissue donation: "I never thought I would need a transplant - but I've been given the gift of life."

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District donation specialist nurse Miriam Nonu is encouraging others to talk about organ and tissue donation, and join the Australian Organ Donor Register.

"There's around 1700 Australians on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant - and many will die waiting," she said.

"Registration is so important because it leaves families in no doubt of their loved one's wishes."

In NSW you can no longer register as an organ donor via your driver's licence, you need to join the register at donatelife.gov.au.

"Registering is quick and easy. It only takes a minute with your Medicare card," Ms Nonu said.

This story Amy won't soon forget the call that saved her life, as another ended first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.