Daughter's dying wish leads to another Transplant Games

Michelle Manning hangs on to the medal her daughter Nyree won in rowing at a previous transplant games. Michelle and her son are going back to the games representing a donor family after donating Nyree's organs after her death.
Michelle Manning hangs on to the medal her daughter Nyree won in rowing at a previous transplant games. Michelle and her son are going back to the games representing a donor family after donating Nyree's organs after her death. Adam Hourigan

MICHELLE Manning and her family drove to Adelaide in 2004 to take part in the Transplant Games after her daughter Nyree received a donor kidney.

As she prepares on Friday to travel to Sydney for the games again with her son Morgan, she holds on to the silver medal Nyree received in rowing in those first games.

"I'm very proud to have it," she said.

This time, when the family competes, they will do so as a donor family, after the decision to donate her organs when Nyree suffered a heart attack at the age of 28 in 2013.

"We discussed it after the transplant, and she told me 'If anything goes pear shaped, you know what you've gotta do. You've got to let them take what they can'," she said.

"I told the doctor it was what she wanted, otherwise she'd come back to haunt me."

When Nyree was three years old, doctors told Mrs Manning her daughter had an unusual kidney disease and her kidneys would eventually stop functioning, and at the age of 10, while playing in a McDonald's playground, a build-up of potassium caused Nyree to have a heart attack.

"Because I'd done my homework, I knew what to do, and jumped up on the equipment and revived her," Mrs Manning said. "Then she went on to the transplant list."

Nyree waited four years for a donor kidney, and Mrs Manning said the new organ gave her back her quality of life.

"She got to go travelling and everything. She was sponsored by the Kidney Foundation and spent three months going through Europe," she said.

Mrs Manning said the lifetime of donor organs varied between people, and many years later after developing an illness, Nyree was forced to return to dialysis treatment as her new kidney had turned toxic.

"And with dialysis, while it keeps you alive, it also ages you," she said.

Nyree passed away in 2013, but her dying wish to donate her organs has extended the life of numerous patients, something Mrs Manning said lessened her grief.

"It helped because I knew something good was going to come of it, and someone would get a second chance at life," she said.

Fast forward three years, and on receiving a pamphlet in the mail about the Transplant Games, Mrs Manning decided to call and join up again.

"When we were invited in 2004, we had no money and couldn't afford to go, and Mark Cox from Transplant Australia sponsored us to go," she said.

"When I rang this time, out of 200 telephonists they have, I ended up getting his sister on the line, and when I said I was from Grafton, she started telling me how her brother had helped a family from Grafton before.

"I had to stop her and say 'You're talking about my family!'

"And it was like Nyree organised it all," she laughed.

The family will take part in a parade through Martin Place to open the event, and compete in such events as softball, ten-pin bowling, chess and maybe even some dragonboat racing.

And Mrs Manning said the opportunity now as a donor family to connect to other families going through both sides of the experience was one she was looking forward to - even harbouring a secret hope to maybe find where her daughter's organs ended up.

"I know I'm not supposed to, but I'd just like to meet the people or parents and tell them what a wonderful girl she was," she said.

And as she prepares to leave, she said her feelings towards organ donation are stronger than ever.

"I've been thinking about approaching the new children's hospital and offering them one of my kidneys," she said.

"I saw what Nyree went through; it's no life. It's a jail sentence, except it's worse because they jab you like a pin cushion.

"I just want to say to people that you can't take your organs with you, but you can give someone a second chance at life."

Topics:  editors picks, transplants

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