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Double kidney transplant all in the family

Kyle Avila has his siblings to thank for the gift of life.

SydneyConnect Image: Kyle, Jessamine and Levi’s story

Siblings Levi, Jess and Kyle Avila have always been close, and encouraged by their parents to share what they had.

"We would take turns; if you were like, 'I really need this', the others would be like, 'OK cool.' And then it happened with organs!" Jess said.

When he was 18, Kyle was diagnosed with IGA nephropathy, a rare autoimmune disease that caused his kidneys to fail.

He started haemodialysis while Jess and Levi were tested for their suitability to donate a kidney to him.

Doctors at RPA Hospital determined Levi's kidney was the most compatible and a transplant took place in 2006.

"As soon as I had the transplant, life pretty much went back to normal and it was great," Kyle said.

When he again became ill in 2021 and had to go back on dialysis, it became clear Jess would have to consider becoming a donor.

She was keen to help, but it wasn't an easy decision to make because, now married with a two-year-old son, she needed to factor her own family into the equation.

"Patients do find it a bit daunting. We do talk them through the benefits and the risks of kidney transplant," Dr Tracey Ying, the renal physician at RPA's Kidney Centre who assessed Jess' suitability to donate, said.

Addressing potential donors' concerns is part of the assessment process, as is evaluating their health to ensure they'll recover well from the procedure.

It helped put Jess and her husband at ease.

"What made me comfortable with the decision [to donate a kidney] was the hospital, everyone there being super helpful. They go through all of the process, all of the pros and cons so you do make an informed decision," she said.

Kyle's second kidney transplant took place in May this year with Jess and Kyle being able to go home from hospital within a week.

"It was actually quite smooth. There's no change, I'm able to do anything I want to do," Jess, who's now fully recovered, said.

Kyle's quality of life has been transformed - he is back at work and now hopes to start a family of his own.

"That was one of the big reasons why I wanted to get a transplant. When you have a little one to look after it's probably not ideal that you're on a machine every three days for six or seven hours, so I'm looking forward to that chapter."

Kyle and Jess have shared their story during DonateLife Week in the hope of encouraging others to register to become organ donors, a call echoed by nurse Allyson Newman, a member of RPA's kidney transplant co-ordination team.

"It's important to recognise that transplantation cannot occur without our donors and donor families. Our message [to people in the community] is to please think about registering as an organ donor and have a conversation with your family about your wishes."

It's an action Kyle too would like everyone to consider. "It's a remarkable gift to give somebody, there's nothing you can compare it to," he said.

For more information about joining the organ and tissue donation register, please visit DonateLife.