A few years ago, SWMBO’s sister and her husband came to stay with us in rural Hampshire. They were taking a break from their round the world travels in their motorhome.
They had made their momentous decision to spend the rest of their lives travelling around the world, sampling local cultures and cusisines, scuba diving and backpacking – and all whilst doing this in a responsible and sustainable manner.
This article isn’t intended to tell the story of their travels. That may be done by visiting their website Tread The Globe or visiting their YouTube channel here. I can say that they are definitley achieving what they set out to do.
This article is actually all about Marianne, my Sister-in-Law. (Sorry Chris!)
The word awesome is really overused these days. it seems that a nice meal is awesome. A film is awesome. Is this overkill?
When I use the term to describe Marianne Fisher, it’s actually well-deserved.
Why do I say this?
Well, Marianne took the astonishingly brave decision to become a living organ-donor, and gift one of her kidneys to a very seriously ill friend.
As she was staying with us, she was a legitimate (and captive) target for me and I used the opportunity to ask her a few questions about what was involved in her decision and with her permission to share it in an article on my website.
Now, I’m no Michael Parkinson or Jay Leno, but I think I managed to do a reasonable job…
A shaft of gloden sunlight streamed through the window, illuminating the compact living area of Marianne Fisher’s Motorhome, bathing us both in a warm yellow glow. Looking round the small area, I was having trouble visualising Marianne and Chris giving up all of their possessions and travelling the world in such a small vehicle.
For goodness sake! – my postman drives a bigger van!
Leaning back into the small sofa, Marianne smiled impishly, and said: “You better crack on then!” so I duly obliged and ‘cracked on’.
The first thing that I really wanted to know was what led her to make the momentous decision to become a living organ donor?
A serious look flits across her face, as she don’t switch tenses explaining to me that her long-standing friend – let’s call her Jane, had suffered from serious health problems for almost all of the thirty years she had known her.
In a quiet voice Marianne continued, telling me that Jane had been the recipient of a kidney and pancreas transplant some eighteen years previously, but two years ago, the transplant started failing.
This resulted in her becoming diabetic, needing permanent regular dialysis. She had been placed into a medically-induced coma to increase her chances of surviving a successful medical intervention should another replacement kidney be found.
“That sounds very serious – what happened next?” I prompted.
Regarding me levelly over the rim of her mug, she continued, explaining that there was another important factor that needed to be considered.
Jane was dying.
She was in such a fragile state of health, that a deceased donor was no longer an option, and only an organ from a living individual could be used.
Whilst Jane had a sibling, he too was in a fragile state of health, and Jane’s parents, whilst willing, were considered too old for the procedure to conducted safely.
Jane also had a fifteen–year–old daughter, who would be left an orphan if no-one could be found.
Marianne appeared to brace herself, and told me that her own Mother passed away when she was just six years old, and that she subsequently went through a dreadful period which evidently still affects her today.
“I couldn’t let her go through that,” she murmured. So, she asked the medical team at Guys Hospital whether she could offer one of her kidneys to Jane.
“How did Chris take that decision?” I asked.
“I didn’t tell him at that point,” she said. “I needed to have all of the information before I wanted to discuss it with him.”
She went on: “I did tell him once I had that knowledge, and could answer his questions and needless to say, he was very concerned – not only for my safety but also for our family’s welfare.”
“Were you worried as well?” I asked, taking another gulp of my coffee.
She laughed. “Not at that point, because I didn’t really think it would happen.”
“So, you weren’t frightened by the enormity of what you were offering to do?”
She absently pushed the opened packet of Rich Tea biscuits towards me, and I welcomed the brief distraction whilst she gathered her thoughts.
She carried on, explaining to me that the transplant team at Guys Hospital were, “absolutely fantastic”, and took the time to explain patiently every aspect of the surgery, and to reassure her continually that she was able to back out at any time.
“What worried you most about the procedure?” I asked.
“My biggest fear was that I would end up having to wear a colostomy bag should the operation not go as planned, or that I would react unfavourably to the anaesthetic.” .
The sun had begun remorselessly advancing towards dusk, and the shadows were slowly moving across the small dining area, as I asked how she had prepared for the other issues, such as only having one kidney left to survive on.
Drawing her knees up under her chin, she told me that she had conducted a lot of personal research into organ donation, and had checked things including post-surgical survival rates, bacteriological infection rates, statistics for Guys Hospital, and probably most importantly, whether she be able to continue to enjoy her passion of Scuba diving.
She also discussed all of this with Chris, who, whilst worried, knew that he was dealing with an unstoppable force – so fully supported her decision, as did her sons.
“So,” she summarised, “My boys were off my hands, and living adult lives, my chances of living life as normal were very high, and Jane was dying. So, I was going to do it.”
That is what happened. Marianne underwent surgery in August 2017. After a short time recuperating in Hampshire, she was soon given the all-clear to Scuba dive, and flew to Borneo that autumn to swim with turtles.
Well, Jane is off dialysis, and is now actively improving her health with physiotherapy, swimming and enjoying quality time with her daughter.
Marianne stood, as if to leave. “One last question?” I asked.
She raised an eyebrow, saying “Go on.”
“What would you say to anyone who is considering becoming a living organ donor?”
Laughing, she said: “That one is easy. Talk to someone who has done it, as it’s a huge decision, and they will need lots of love, guidance and support.”
I picked my notebook up, realising that I hadn’t written a thing in it, and shoved it back in my pocket as I stepped down from the camper van, and walked back into the early evening sunshine,
The word awesome is not one that I use often, but in this case, it sums this lovely lady up.
Marianne – You Rock!
You can follow Marianne and Chris’s travels by visiting treadtheglobe.com