TWICE Ken Yensh has faced death up close. He finds it hard to put into words the phenomenal gift of life he has been given each time for himself, his partner Wendy and their family.
Ken has just celebrated his 67th birthday and the one-year anniversary of his second lung transplant.
He loves being able to go for walks with Wendy and little things, like sharing a coffee by Lake Wendouree.
Twice, Ken has got to a point when he could barely move. He felt his body breaking down on him.
Ken relied on Wendy for day-to-day help with everything and he saw the worry etched into her face as she pushed him in a wheelchair.
They say the past seven years has been a complete rollercoaster ride - emotionally and physically - but the outcome is what they want people to know. They want to share the hope.
"This is another change in life again," Ken said. "It's a great feeling."
About seven years ago is when Ken first started to get sick with lung disease. Within six months it took hold and he could barely breathe.
By mid the next year, Ken was in hospital to assess for a potential transplant.
"While there, I crashed and fell into a screaming heap," Ken said. "I had a machine take over my breathing for me...I was isolated for months to get a transplant until I was told I had one month to get a transplant or the machine would be turned off."
I crashed and fell into a screaming heap.Ken Yensh
Ken said things "fell into place" and within three days a compatible donor had been found. All went well until his body struck rejection and Ken found himself back in trouble.
In this time, his daughter died and Ken was forced to miss the funeral because he was too ill in hospital to be allowed out.
Ken said it was "touch and go" whether further surgery was an option but again, everything seemed to work out.
It is not lost on Ken and Wendy the gift other families have bestowed upon them and the situation those families were facing to make such a decision.
This DonateLife Week, Ken hoped other families would go online and consider the possibility, but also to talk about what organ and tissue donation could mean for them.
It's phenomenal what others have done...They've saved me and they've saved Wendy in a way too.Ken Yensh
"It's so hard when you're a person who is ill, waiting for another set of lungs. There were others there who were struggling too with different kidney problems or lung problems," Ken said.
"I've had the gift given to me, another opportunity. It's phenomenal what others have done...They've saved me and they've saved Wendy in a way too; they've given out relationship a few more years."
Wendy said none of this was possible without great back-up from whole teams of health professionals: pre-transplant, there was Ballarat Hospice Care in helping to keep Ken comfortable at home; post-transplant, there were dietitians, surgeons, physiotherapists and psychologists aiming to give Ken and his new set of lungs the best chance.
Much had changed between Ken's first and second transplants in terms of medical progress and technology. Wendy said researchers in laboratories, working to determine best matches and antibodies were unsung heroes in such stories.
About 1700 Australians are on a transplant waiting list.
DonateLife nurse Larna Woodyatt said this number was up slightly on last year but why this might be was unclear.
Ms Woodyatt hoped DonateLife Week, while a bit different this year, would encourage people to register or find out more about organ and tissue donation. If registered, Ms Woodyatt urged people to talk with friends, family and neighbours about their decision.
Less than two per cent of deaths occur in a way that makes donation possible.
"We want people to think about donating in the rare event they may be able to help people," Ms Woodyatt said.
For more details, visit donatelife.gov.au.
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