Listen: Bec Vallee talks about her journey with kidney disease, and her wait for a new kidney, with husband Ryan now preserving a kidney for their daughter.
When Bec and Ryan Vallee welcomed little Bo into the world, the arrival was a miracle in and of itself.
At the age of twelve, Bec Vallee was diagnosed with a genetic form of nephrotic syndrome – a kidney disease that required a life saving transplant. Just after completing Grade 12, and having undergone months of dialysis, Bec’s mother stepped in to provide the gift of life, donating one of her kidneys to her daughter.
Her condition meant that she was unable to carry a child so baby Bo was born with the help of a surrogate – Bec’s sister.
“Parenting changed our lives in the best ways we could have imagined – Ryan and I had always wanted a family, and we’d still like to grow our family. Becoming parents really does change your perspective on the world.”
Bec had always known there would come a day when she would eventually need another transplant. She told 96five that it was a common misconception that a donated organ would last forever.
“Transplants are an amazing, life saving gift, but they’re not a cure so they don’t last forever. Some people have many years, but on average you really only get around 10 to 15 years for any organ transplant.
“The transplants do come to the end of their life, and then you’ll need another one; from a young age I’ve always known I would need another one eventually.”
When she married Ryan, it didn’t take long for the young couple to decide that Ryan would donate a kidney when that time came.
But as things happen with children, plans changed when baby Bo was diagnosed with the same condition as Bec. It was then decided that Ryan would save his kidney for their daughter.
“As any parent would, it was a very easy decision for us, that I would not take his kidney when the time came. We would preserve it in the same way that my mum donated to me.”
Bec is now back on dialysis and on a waiting list for a donor kidney, but says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve had my second chance and I want Bo to experience the goodness of having a live donor, and knowing that she won’t be waiting when the time comes.”
Bec told 96five that the family has leant heavily on their faith as well as their church community, and had also been supported by the Ipswich Hospital and the Ipswich Hospital Foundation.
“I became a committed Christian in my early teens, and Ryan is a Baptist pastor, having served for many years at Riverlife Baptist Church. Our faith is central to who we are and how we live.
“The Ipswich Hospital Foundation have also been incredible in their generosity and support. They really deserve a lot of credit for the incredible effort and love that they’ve shown me and my family.”
The coronavirus pandemic in Australia has had some unintended consequences on the national organ donation program.
In 2020, there was a 16% decrease in the number of donors and a 12% decrease in the number of people receiving a transplant compared to 2019. There was also a 16% drop in registrations in 2020 compared with 2019.
Compare this to the around 1,800 people who are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and a further 12,000 who are on dialysis, who may benefit from kidney transplant.
This means it’s never been more important to encourage people to register as an organ and tissue donor, and to talk to their family about donation.
This Donate Life Week the theme is the Great Registration Race, and the easiest way to donate is via the DonateLife website.
Registering is easy and only takes one minute – all you need is your Medicare card.