Real Life

These three Aussies lives changed forever because of one special gift

These lucky families have an extra reason to celebrate this year.

By As told to Take 5
There's no better time than Christmas to count your blessings.
After all, it's the perfect time to surround yourself with all of the best things in life; family, food and fun!
But for some, this year's celebrations represent more than just the usual Christmas cheer.
Below, Take 5 chatted to three people who received gifts that have changed their lives forever.

My first Christmas with a house!

Tamara Firth, 52, from Coffs Harbour, NSW:
Climbing into my car, I wound up the windows, locked the door and started to cry.
This is your home now, I thought.
As darkness settled I tried to close my eyes and drift off to sleep but the knowledge that my old life was over and I was now homeless made it impossible to relax.
When my marriage of 31 years ended, I was unable to pay the rent and couldn't find anywhere I could afford.
The old station wagon was all I had.
Using what little money I had left, I placed my belongings in storage and started sleeping by the beach or in the national park.
Luckily, there was a shower and bathroom at the storage company that I was allowed to use, because I didn't want to worry my family or friends with my problems.
After several months in a rut, I enrolled in a TAFE course and even found some short-term accommodation.
I finally feel safe and happy. Photo credit: Jocelyn Box
No more car, I thought, collapsing in a bed for the first time in months.
But things with the other tenant turned bad very quickly and I had to leave in mere weeks.
Once again, I turned to my car. I couldn't hide my predicament anymore.
Family and friends checked up on me and made sure I had food and money, but I was still homeless.
One day, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post from Mission Australia talking about homelessness.
With nothing left to lose, I sent them a message and they replied straightaway wanting to help.
After all I'd been through, I didn't dare get my hopes up, so I was shocked when Mission Australia called me.
"We have a unit for you," they said.
I burst into tears of happiness.
"You've saved my life," I told them.
I knew there was no way I could keep living in a car – I wasn't even living, just surviving.
I'm looking forward to Christmas. Photo credit: Jocelyn Box
Now, I am settled in a new apartment I have decorated and made all my own.
After a year of living in my car, I'm looking forward to cooking up a huge Christmas dinner and celebrating after countless tears and sleepless nights.
I hope my story inspires others not to give up.
Whether it's Christmas or any time of year, there is always someone out there willing to listen.

My first Christmas with a kidney!

Ellen Ellul, 41, from Blackwood, SA:
I watched my son Roman, two, playing with his toys.
"Be careful with the belly tube," I reminded him.
Roman was born with a kidney condition that required between seven to 12 hours of dialysis treatment each night to flush the toxins out of his body.
"Beach!" he cried over and over again.
Watching the waves was all he wanted, but it was just too risky.
There were so many things we couldn't do, like going near the water or letting him play in sandpits or on trampolines.
We could only bathe him in an inch of water because his catheter had to be kept completely dry.
By the time he was three, Roman's immunity was so low that doctors warned us he needed a transplant.
For three agonising years, my hubby Jamie and I were on tenterhooks hoping for some much-needed good news.
Me and my son.
As Christmas came and went, we had to keep Roman inside when he longed to run along the beach.
Things were looking grim when, just days before Christmas, the hospital rang.
I turned to face Roman.
"Guess what?" I began, "Your kidney is waiting at the hospital."
Roman's face lit up.
"Is it a blue one?" he asked, thinking he could choose the colour.
I chuckled.
"No, it's going to be a healthy pink."
When doctors put him on the operating table and connected the new kidney, Roman urinated for the first time in three years.
This was such a small thing, but the transplant had changed – and maybe saved – his life.
On Christmas, he only had one wish: to go to the beach at last.
Roman loves the beach.
"I want to find seashells and build sandcastles," he said.
I cried watching him walk along the beach for the first time.
Since then, Roman has started at school and, although the disease had stunted his growth, a year of daily hormone injections has helped.
None of us will ever forget that amazing Christmas when all our dreams came true for our beautiful boy.
Playing with his sister, Heidi.

My first Christmas with my daughter!

Jan Schreurs, 68, from Adelaide, SA:
Christmas might be a happy time for lots of people, but it's always been hell for me.
When I was 19, I had to give up my baby daughter for adoption. It broke my heart.
Each year, the festive season was a reminder that she was out there – somewhere – but I wouldn't get to see her ripping open presents or singing along at the carols.
As life went on I married, had three boys and became a grandmother, but I always thought about my darling daughter.
After suffering from a bad fall this year, I landed in hospital where I became frail and could barely get around.
Back home my husband became my carer despite being sick himself.
Everything was looking grim when, one day, a letter arrived from Relationships Australia asking me to contact them.
Meeting Jennifer was very emotional.
My heart leapt.
At last!
Relationships Australia passed a few messages back and forth between Jennifer and me before we could contact one another directly.
It turned out we were living in the same state, just one hour away!
But the timing couldn't have been worse: I was just about to fly interstate to visit one of my children.
I'd have to wait a whole week before we could meet face to face.
When the big day arrived, I was a mix of both nerves and excitement.
My son accompanied me to the club, where Jennifer was waiting.
"Hi Mum," she choked.
We were both too emotional to speak much at first.
Now we are in regular contact and she even came along to my birthday party.
Our bond has made me very happy.
I'd be lying if I said that everything clicked into place straightaway.
It takes time for a real bond to develop, but finally being part of Jennifer's life has brought me the greatest happiness of all.
I couldn't think of a better Christmas gift.
Jennifer, 48, said:
I wasn't looking forward to Christmas this year because my non-biological mother died a few months ago.
So i'm thrilled that I've found my mother after 30 years of searching.

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