Real Life

REAL LIFE: Anne Schuller got a second chance at love after she donated her kidney to her husband, Kym

''To do that for someone that you love is a moving experience.''
Loading the player...

The bond between my husband, Kym Schuller, and I is very precious, given that it is a second marriage for each of us.

We met working in the property industry, on the Sunshine Coast, where we always admired each other’s achievements and shared a passion for our profession.

We were friends first.

Kym had a career as an architectural designer and eventually he started working at the same company with me. In time we discovered there was more to our friendship.

We shared a lot of interests. We loved to travel and ski, and our Christian faith gives a rich foundation to all that we do.

As we got to know each other on a deeper level over dinners, I learned that since he was 15, Kym had been managing kidney disease. Only one of his kidneys worked, and he’d lived his whole life with it operating at about 20 per cent.

He had always been able to manage his condition through diet and having semi-regular check-ups with specialists.

He largely lived a life free from complications. He never drew attention to himself. He’s just not that sort of person.

Anne and Kym were friends first before they fell in love

(Image: Supplied and used with permission)

Kym always knew he would one day need a new kidney and fortunately had a willing donor.

So, when Kym’s kidney function began to decline in 2013, we decided to go overseas and have a good holiday, knowing he may not be able to do it again.

As it happened, his kidney kept ticking over. We pushed the envelope.

In June 2016 we got married and after that, we travelled every year for three or four weeks and made the most of it, saying, this will be the last one, and then, one more, one more!

Kym was being monitored closely. He would see his doctor every three months. Soon it became every month and then nearly every fortnight.

As 2020 dawned we realised it was time for the transplant but in April that year, Kym’s donor decided not to go ahead.

Now he was faced with the question of either going on dialysis within the next six to 12 months or finding another donor.

It can be a two to three year waiting period for a kidney and, as we all know now, 2020 was a bad year to decide you needed a new organ.

I wondered if there was anything I could do to help the process.

I’d always had in my head that you had be a blood-type match for organ donation and given we weren’t the same blood type I thought I couldn’t possibly donate.

I was wrong. Testing showed that we had a tissue match and this donation was absolutely possible.

Anne and Kym went on as many trips as they could despite Kym’s diagnosis

(Image: Supplied and used with permission)

Finding this out was an incredible feeling.

But while the major hurdle was over there were many more to come. Nobody can be a donor unless your body is in very good health. At 65 it was a long shot. I had to have lots of tests.

In addition to the physical testing over a 10-month period I had to have some psychiatric assessments.

The psychiatrist asked questions like, “What does your family think about what you’re doing?” They test to be certain you’re doing it of your own free will and there’s no coercion or disapproval from family.

At the end of the day I passed, which was quite extraordinary. I had never thought about putting my hand up because of my age.

I thought, what would they want with an older person’s kidney? It turns out age is not a barrier at all.

In fact, they prefer to try to age match, because they’re not going to put a 60-year-old kidney into a 20-year-old kid. There’s definitely a need for older people to donate their organs as well.

Plus, for anyone thinking about organ donation it’s a great way to get a health check!

Kym’s surgery was one of the last performed before operating theatres closed due to COVID.

(Image: Supplied and used with permission)

It took about eight months to really find out I could go ahead, but when I knew that I was able to, it was incredible.

It’s a bonding experience to start with because you’re able to support another life, which is wonderful. And to do that for someone that you love is a moving experience.

So many factors needed to line up for Kym to get his new kidney.

Once I was given medical and psychological clearance, we needed to dodge the lockdowns that were shutting down operating theatres.

As our operations approached in March 2021, COVID numbers again began to climb.

The doctors had already begun the process of giving Kym the series of plasma transfusions he would need – at $8000 a session – before going under the knife.

He’d already had three transfusions when the hospital began shutting down non-essential operations.

The doctors came in at one stage and said, “You’re currently listed as non-essential so they could kick you out but we’re going to push the operation forward as essential because we’re not going to back out at this point.”

We were literally the last operation done before they closed the operating theatres.

We were thinking, “Come on, let’s get on with it. I can’t wait for it to happen.”

Afterwards, it was a fantastic feeling of achievement, I was so thrilled to be able to do it. The whole purpose of it was to give Kym a better life. Now he will have a better life.

But I don’t want to make myself out to be an angel. If you want to look at it from a selfish point of view I benefit too, because he’s my spouse. It was good all around.

People might be reluctant to donate because they think they can’t afford the six or eight weeks of recovery and that sort of thing, but the government covers most of the cost associated with organ donation and organ transplant.

Now, if anything, my kidney function is better than ever because it’s working a bit harder, and that makes it stronger.

We are just full of appreciation and in awe of how lucky we are. We can’t express that enough. It’s certainly a miracle.

You can read this story and many others in the September issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly – on sale now

Related stories