A selfless mother has turned down a life-saving kidney donation from her husband so it can be given to their two-year-old daughter as she battles the same rare genetic disease.
Bec Vallee, 31, from Ipswich, Queensland, was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of 12 before her mother saved her life by donating one of her organs five years later.
But the nurse’s body has started to reject the gifted organ, which has left her on renal dialysis three days a week for six hours at a time.
Husband Ryan had planned to donate one of his kidneys until the couple discovered their daughter Ambrosia, two, suffered from the same condition as her mother and will one day need a transplant.
Ms Vallee is now back on a transplant waiting list, hoping a kidney will become available soon.
Bec Vallee, 31, has turned down her husband Ryan’s kidney donation so it can instead be given to their daughter Ambrosia as she fights the same rare genetic disease (pictured together)
‘I am very lucky in many ways, but life with kidney failure is far from normal,’ Ms Vallee told Daily Mail Australia.
‘My kidney function is under five per cent, and being on dialysis means a daily battle with fatigue, nausea, bone and heart issues. The list goes on.’
Kidney disease occurs when the vital organ – which works to filter out waste from the body – stops functioning, leading to waste build-up.
Sufferers can experience a host of serious health implications as a result, including fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, weak bones, anaemia, and nerve damage.
After receiving the transplant at 17, Ms Vallee – who had spent years in and out of hospital and on dialysis – felt as ‘close to normal’ as she had ever experienced, enabling her to travel and finish university.
‘It was a sense of wellness and energy – no longer having to take medication and be monitored. It was freedom, it was the greatest gift I could have asked for,’ she said.
Ms Vallee, a nurse educator for West Moreton Health, became inspired to launch a career in health care to help others after her own hospital experiences as a teenager.
The Ipswich nurse was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was 12, leaving her in and out of hospital as a teenager
Ms Vallee said she did not realise just how debilitating her kidney disease was until she received a transplant at 17 and was able to function ‘normally’
But a few years later as the Vallees prepared to start a family of their own, the couple were dealt the devastating blow that their child would one day face the same health challenges as her mother.
A prenatal scan revealed their daughter had abnormal kidney development. It was later confirmed to be the caused by the same rare genetic condition.
‘We were completely shocked and overwhelmed. We were unsure how to positively proceed, it felt like a daunting diagnosis,’ Ms Vallee said.
‘It was a life-changing moment. We were determined that she would live a full and meaningful life knowing that every day is a gift.’
The couple made the decision the donation would be held for their little girl, who will one day need a transplant.
Ms Vallee said it was instantaneous.
‘Every parent would sacrifice and lay down their life and everything needed for their child,’ Ms Vallee said.
‘As a parent, you want your child to have a good and happy life.
‘My life has been filled with lots of positive things, and we knew hers would be too. We just have to keep looking at the positives and keep looking forward.’
Ms Vallee is now on a waiting list as the couple hope Ryan will one day be able to donate one of his kidneys to their daughter
It is hoped when the time comes Ryan will be a suitable match and Ambrosia can receive the donation early to avoid the health impacts associated with the disease progressing into its later stages.
In the meantime, Ms Vallee has been on sick leave for a month as she fights constant exhaustion while undergoing treatment.
Despite fighting the illness for most of her life, the mother-of-one says she is extremely lucky she can still complete everyday tasks and be an active parent.
‘Kidney failure is a really complex problem – it is life threatening. There are many who suffer impacts that I don’t,’ she said.
‘I am very lucky in many senses that I don’t have worse problems that I am facing every day.’
Ms Vallee is sharing her story for DonateLife week to raise awareness about the life-changing gift of organ donation.
Around 1800 Australians are on the waiting list for an organ transplant, with a further 12,000 on dialysis – some of whom would greatly benefit from a kidney.
While seven million Australians are signed up to become organ donors, only a handful will be given the chance, with only two per cent of people who die in hospital able to donate.
Ms Vallee has taken time off work as she endures renal dialysis three times a week, but says she is ‘very lucky’ her disease is not yet as severe as what other sufferers are going through
This year, the campaign aims to bust myths about organ donation – such as people believing they will not qualify due to their age or lifestyle factors like drinking and smoking – to encourage Australians to register.
Organs that can be donated include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and pancreas, while other body tissues, such as skin, can be given to burns patients, or corneas can be offered to restore sight.
With donations exceedingly rare, Ms Vallee said having as many people registered as possible increases the chances that those in need will be able to receive a life-changing transplants.
‘It is an opportunity that does not come around very often. When someone is able to donation, they have to die in a way their organs are preserved so there is a select few, only 2 per cent, that can donate,’ she said.
‘And transplants are not a cure. Although they offer years of a wonderful life, they do decline, or you will need dialysis or another transplant to stay alive.
‘So it is very important people sign up and register to give families the gift of life.’
WHAT IS KIDNEY DISEASE?
Kidney disease is the loss of normal kidney function over time, and can be either acute or chronic
The disease occurs when the kidneys, which work to clean blood and filter waste out of urine, stop functioning as they should
This leads to waste gradually building up in the body, which can have devastating health impacts
Around 1.7 million Australians are impacted by kidney disease each year
‘Acute kidney disease’ is where kidneys recover normal function within three months, while ‘chronic kidney disease’, the most common form of the disease, occurs when there is a loss of healthy kidney disease for more than three months
Chronic kidney disease has five stages – from mild to severe – with kidney failure occurring in the later stages
There are many different causes of kidney disease, including diabetes, immune diseases, congenital conditions, or genetic disorders, such as polycystic kidney disease
Kidney disease is irreversible, but can be treated if caught early, with early-stage interventions including minimising alcohol, eating healthy, and being active and medication
Later-stage treatment options include kidney transplants, kidney replacement therapy, also known as kidney dialysis, or conservative management and supportive care
Source: Kidney Health Australia
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