Best friends Kerryn Rowcliffe and Judi Barrkman celebrate Kerryn's 50th birthday together.
Best friends Kerryn Rowcliffe and Judi Barrkman celebrate Kerryn's 50th birthday together. Contributed

Best friend's kidney the gift that keeps on giving

JUDI Barrkman had no idea how much her life would change when she received the ultimate gift from her best friend Kerryn Rowcliffe.

A little more than two years has passed since Ms Rowcliffe donated a kidney to her chronically-ill friend, giving her a chance to overcome hereditary kidney disease.

"I'm getting on well now but it has been a very long process," Miss Barrkman said.

She has battled serious illnesses which came as side-effects of large amounts of medication needed to keep the donor kidney working.

The physical and mental toll was far beyond what she expected.

"That's been a massive struggle that I never even thought about," she said.

It included hospitalisation for a virus as well as a complete loss of white blood cells.

"The medications are full on - they do a lot of things to your body."

The mental impacts probably surprised her the most.

Coming to terms with the foreign organ was difficult.

"You don't feel like yourself any more - things change.

"I suffered from anxiety a lot but I have an amazing bunch of medical people around me."

Meeting other organ recipients during her treatment made her realise she was not alone.

"They all struggle with coping with normal life.

"I completely underestimated what it would be like."

However there have also been great benefits, the most obvious stemming from having full kidney function.

"I can now work a full day now.

"I don't need to sleep as much as I used to."

She has been able to put more effort into her home-based kaftan business as she tried to recover from the financial implications of lengthy illness.

"My whole perspective on life has changed.

"It is all about being healthy and happy.

"It is all about the simple stuff."

Her friend Ms Rowcliffe has supported her the whole way.

"The number of phone calls she has had of me crying and hysterical... I couldn't have got through it without her."