Craig and Leann Hatfield love each other, but they want to share it around. They have exchanged kidneys – but not even with each other!
Leann's kidneys started failing at the age of 27 and the mother of two progressed to dialysis a year ago when she was 38. Her husband naturally hoped he would be compatible for a live donation but when that wasn't the case, the search was on for an arrangement with another pair to find the ultimate kidney compatibility.
Now Leann and Craig are sharing their love with two anonymous couples who could be from opposite corners of Australia.
"This is really going to change our life. I'm very happy that he was willing to do this for me and for our family," said Leann.
"Being hooked up to a machine for dialysis every second day will keep you alive but it's not living, especially when we have young children."
Craig started the investigation into donating to Leann when she progressed to dialysis.
"I was very happy to donate a kidney to Leann but unfortunately I was unable to donate to her directly. When we heard about the Paired Kidney Exchange, we jumped at it," Craig said.
"I wanted her to have a kidney any way possible, and this was the way to make that happen."
Through the Australian Paired Kidney Exchange Program, a database enables an incompatible pair to be matched to a recipient in another pair. A match could result in two or more simultaneous transplants by exchanging donors at multiple transplant centres across the Australia.
"Most guys give their wives flowers and chocolates; I thought I'd up the ante this year and give her a kidney. That should put me in the good books for a year or two," he said.
Director of Nephrology, Prof David Johnson, said new programs are all about increasing the size of the donor pool.
"The actual pool of live donors who are clinically able to donate is fairly small so paired kidney exchange has essentially expanded the whole transplant program with a new donor group that we previously didn't have access to," he said.
PAH did about five paired exchanges last year with more and more people looking to be involved in exchange.
"There is a considerable shortage of kidneys for donation," said Dr Johnson. "The number of people coming onto dialysis is far exceeding the number of kidneys that are available with only 20 per cent of those dialysing able to receive a kidney and the gap is widening.
"There is an urgent need to expand the donor pool so programs like the paired kidney exchange and donation after cardiac death are improving the availability of kidneys."
With the advent of these new programs, PAH has improved the kidney transplant rate from about 110 per year to 160 per year.
"To continue to increase the options for transplantation, I encourage people to discuss their donation decision with family and friends – donation saves lives."