AT first glance, Lisa Hyder and Shawn Delaney look like any other friends, sitting down enjoying a coffee, a chat and a joke.
But there is much more to this friendship than meets the eye.
In the coming months the close-knit chums will become even closer when Shawn donates one of his kidneys to Lisa and gives her back a normal life.
Lisa suffers from a chronic kidney disease and since the birth of her three-year-old daughter Lanie, her kidney function has gradually withered to just six per cent. She requires nightly peritoneal dialysis and has a permanent tube in her abdomen, which is prone to infection.
The 33-year-old battles bouts of extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and a low immune system — all while maintaining her role as a mother and wife.
The only chance for Lisa to return to a normal life is to receive a kidney transplant.
“I went on the deceased donors’ list about 12 months ago,” Lisa said.
“The wait time is a minimum of four years. Some people get one straight away and others die waiting.”
As a back-up, she had asked anyone who was willing to undergo testing to see if they were a match.
“My husband Dale wanted to test, but I wouldn’t let him,” she said.
“We don’t know if Lanie will need a transplant, because she can’t have the function tests until she’s 20, so I told Dale to save his for her just in case.
“My dad was tested. He was a tissue match, but wasn’t a good blood match.”
Enter her good mate, Shawn. He completed the necessary tests but in December returned a negative result at the final hurdle.
“That was shattering. We had come so far and then to be told no, we couldn’t believe it,” Lisa said.
“But Shawn said ‘don’t worry, it could be a false negative’ and that he would do the test again. When it came back a good match, I couldn’t believe it.
“What he is doing is so generous, I just don’t know how to thank him. It’s something you can’t put into words.”
Shawn said he decided to take the test after seeing what Lisa went through each day.
“It has a huge impact on her life,” he said. “She has a little girl and I wanted to do whatever I could to help her have a normal life.
“I’ve got a young daughter and I didn’t want Lisa to miss out on enjoying watching Lanie grow up because she was too sick.
“When we got the all-clear, there were no second thoughts. I knew from the start I wanted to do it and I’m going to see it through to the finish.
“I don’t see myself as a hero. Watching Lisa go through what she goes through every day without complaining, she’s the real hero.”
Lisa said before the birth of her daughter there were no major symptoms of the disease, which can be traced back through her family, with her mother, sister, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother all suffering from the condition.
“I had 33 per cent function before I was pregnant,” she said.
“As soon as I had Lanie, my kidney function dropped to 23 per cent and has been declining ever since.
“Lanie had to be induced, and born premature, because I was so sick during the pregnancy.”
She went onto peritoneal dialysis in March last year and each night hooks up to a machine for eight-and-a-half hours.
“It’s (the dialysis) really uncomfortable; it pumps fluid into my abdomen, so there is so much pressure on all my organs,” she said.
“I can’t swim or have a bath because of the tube, and the area around the tube can get infected easily.
“The disease has a huge impact on my life. Some days I have no energy at all and am so tired.
“The disease also affects my immune system, so something as simple as a common cold can make me really sick for weeks.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to explain to people that I’m sick, because I don’t look sick.”
On top of the dialysis, Lisa is on a cocktail of medication and immunisations to try to boost her immune system.
“That all costs a fair bit of money,” she said.
“We aren’t eligible for any help from Centrelink, so each week we pay a minimum of $150 for medication.”
And when the operation happens, Lisa and Shawn will need to stay within one kilometre of the hospital for six weeks.
Their friend Leah Kent said a group of friends was trying to raise funds to help cover the cost of accommodation in Melbourne after the transplant.
“Six weeks is a long time to be paying for accommodation, so we are passing the hat around to help them out a bit,” Leah said.
“Shawn has a young daughter and Lisa’s husband is self-employed, so we just want to do what we can to help them out and support them both.”
Lisa said it wasn’t clear when the transplant would happen, but they were hoping for a date in April.
“I know it’s going to be a hard few weeks after the operation, but it’s going to be even worse for Shawn. Recovery for the donor is a lot longer than for the recipient,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to having a normal life again and being able to do things with Lanie like taking her to the beach, or pool and go swimming not just sit and watch, and just having enough energy to keep up with her all day.
“Thanks to Shawn, I’ll be able to do that; I’ll have my life back. It’s something I will never be able to thank him enough for.”
n This week is DonateLife Week, a national awareness campaign to promote organ and tissue donation, and to encourage Australians to set time aside to talk about organ and tissue donation. Visit www.donatelife.gov.au for more information.