Morning coffee: Barbara Merrifield takes one sugar in her cappuccino and 42 pills to keep her alive. Photo: CAROL SAFFER

Organ donor recipients support each other

August 11, 2019 BY

BARBARA Merrifield hooked herself up to a kidney dialysis machine four times a day for forty minutes every day for ten years before she received a kidney transplant in 2014.

She found it isolating when she came home after the transplant.

“Before my surgery I had so many people involved, social workers, phycologists and all the different health professionals involved in organ transplants,” Ms Merrifield said.

“When I returned home to Clunes there was nothing, it was like ‘you’re fixed now off you go’.”

That’s when her idea of setting up the Spare Parts Club took off.

Having to travel to Melbourne for all pre-transplant treatment, Ms Merrifield said the last thing she wanted to do was to keep going to the city for support.

The group started partially by accident, her granddaughter’s friend’s dad was also a kidney recipient and Ms Merrifield met a man who had a liver transplant while she was delivering meals on wheels.

“I realised I am not the only one, there’s are a few of us, so I thought it would be a good thing to get together for support,” Ms Merrifield said.

“Most of the group are organ recipients although I am helping a woman who is on the waiting list for a double lung transplant who lives in Creswick.

“There has been a bit of controversy over the name, but I look at is as a of bit humour away from the medical side of transplants.”

The Spare Parts Club members help each other not just at their monthly meetings, firm and caring friendships have been forged by some of those in the group.

Ms Merrifield said as a recipient it is also difficult to wrap your head around the fact that somebody died so you could live.

“In our spare parts group, we all relate to each other, it doesn’t matter what organ you receive, the ride is very similar, one which I describe as a roller coaster ride.”

After 10 years of dialysis Ms Merrifield had become almost homebound, finding it hard to rebuild her life after getting a new kidney.

It was a suggestion that she might like to consider volunteering which helped her recovery.

Ms Merrifield delivers meals on wheels, works at the community visitor’s scheme and she is 2IC for the Share the Dignity charity in the Grampians/Pyrenees area.

She also raises her granddaughter Tanika, who lives with her.

“Before transplant it is the role of the health professionals to make sure you are in the right frame of mind for the operation,” she said. “In my opinion I don’t think they realise the difficulties faced by organ recipients.

“All of a sudden you have freedom, more energy and choices which can be very bewildering.”

Ms Merrifield said she uses her spare time going on adventures with her granddaughter.

Sometimes it might be just going for a drive or chilling in bed and watching a movie together.

“We have great fun taking trips to local op-shops to feed my teapot collecting habit, at last count I had over two thousand,” she said.