Wife gives the gift of life

Michael O’Grady with his wife Sharna Carmody. Sharna will be donating one of her kidneys to Michael.
Michael O’Grady with his wife Sharna Carmody. Sharna will be donating one of her kidneys to Michael.

“We take our organs for granted, unless we have a disease that effects them”.

Husband of former Boorowa woman Sharna Carmody, Michael O’Grady says this in the hope it will get people talking about their own health.

Mick suffers from IgA Nephritis, a chronic kidney disease which causes inflammation of his kidneys.

March 5 to March 11 is Kidney Health Week and by telling his story, Mick is urging Australians to see if they are one of the ‘one in three’ people who are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

“In 2012 I went for a check up with the doctor and I had high blood pressure,” Mick says.

“The unusual thing with that was, I didn’t have any other symptoms or health conditions, I was physically fit and active, playing sport.

“If you were looking at me you wouldn't have thought I was sick, the doctor thought we need to investigate further, so I had some blood and urine tests that revealed I had some kidney problems.

“I was recommended to an nephrologist in Townsville, they did some further investigations including a biopsy on my kidney, which confirmed I had IgA Nephritis.”

Mick says he is one of the lucky ones, with 90 per cent of sufferers going into renal failure without even knowing they have the disease.

“Which is quite scary, a lot of the symptoms are hidden so you don’t know you are crook,” he said.

“They have no options or choices, they’re rushed into hospital, put on dialysis and on a transplant waiting list.

“Initially I couldn’t deal with it very well, I felt embarrassed, with a lot of mixed emotions.

“There was a period when I was struggling mentally and that’s where my wife Sharna stepped in, she could see me struggling.

“Right from the start she said she was going to be a donor, before we even started testing, she could see that there was no other option but having an organ transplant,” Mick said

Mick hopes that his story will resonate with those who live in rural communities with remote and very remote Australians having a much higher rate of Early Stage Kidney Disease than their metropolitan counterparts.

“I work in the ag industry and the last thing on farmers minds is to have a regular health check up,” he said.

“I fell into that category where I was a bit naive, thought I was bullet proof, I did’t need to go to the doctors unless it’s really bad.

“Obviously with my experience with this disease that mind set isn’t the right thing to have.

“That’s why we are hoping to create a bit of awareness for our story, that it’s okay to go get a health check on a regular basis,” he says.

Both Mick and Sharna are encouraging Australians to take the Kidney Health Australia risk factors test.

“I’d highly recommend people to take the online risk assessment test,” he says.

“Most farmers can access it online and if they have minor risks they can get in touch with their GP and get a blood or urine test done.

“Just ask for a kidney test and see your GP that’s all it takes which is not much,” he says.

Sharna agrees saying that people need to take back control of their health.

“Have annual check ups and if you notice something’s off saying something,” she said.

“You look at the stats of kidney disease, one in three people don’t know that they have risk factors.

“It’s a silent killer, a silent disease, you are the only person who knows your body inside and out and it’s about having that conversation with your doctor,” she says.

After a long 14 months Mick is now preparing to receive a kidney transplant from Sharna and both want to create dialog on organ transplants.

“I think organ donation is very important, I’m just one of the lucky ones because my wife is a match,” Mitch said.

“Organ donation can save lives, it’s not the end for us, but the next stage of managing the disease, there’s a chance it could come back with the new kidney but it’s still a great option”.

“I didn’t think dialysis was going to be a thing Mick you benefit from mentally,” Sharna said.

“He loves his freedom, he loves to travel, he works and travels for work a lot and he enjoys that.

“With not knowing how long he would have to be on dialysis on the donation waiting list. I just went oh well, I’ll do the test to see if I’m a match.

“I knew our blood types were a match before we started the process.

“I didn’t think twice about it to be honest, I basically told him he was going to have a transplant.”

Sharna said she never had a problem with thinking about organ donation.

“If I had an accident, I’d donate my organs, I’ve always felt that way, I think it’s a topic not many people want to talk about,” she said.

“But it’s important to talk about it with your family so they know it’s your wish to donate your organs.

“Nine times out of 10 it’s the family that actually stop the donation process even if you are a registered organ donor.

“I didn’t realise that live organ donation was something you could do until we had to start looking at what Mick’s options were. 

“It takes stress off the waiting list, I just think it’s time people have that conversation with their families .”

Both are now looking forward to the future with a renewed sense of freedom, but want Australians to take the time and check their own health.

“If you have five minutes, some time to yourself this week, jump online take the test,” Mick said.

“It doesn’t take long and see your GP, get a kidney test not just this week, but once a year, make it a regular thing”.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your story, don’t get yourself into a state of denial,” Sharna said.

“If you are concerned about something go and speak to your doctor or family member, because it might not go away”.

You can take the online risk assessment test by visiting http://kidney.org.au