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Miracle Story

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Dr Tracy kennedy-Shanks


Toowoomba, Australia

Bill's Story

Submitted into: Miracles of Hope Category,

On: 2010-07-28 00:42:29

Bill had a liver transplant 16 years ago. How he met his donor family is nothing short of miraculous. I call it a series of “God-incidences” as there are just too many co-incidences to be co-incidental.

Bill had suffered from a number of debilitating conditions most of his life. Ulcerative colitis, (affecting the large bowel), schlerosing polycholangitis, (affecting the liver), and arthritis were bound together to form a nasty syndrome which by the time he was 43 was getting very serious. In 1987, he had a Total Colectomy, (removal of the large bowel), which was hoped to cure all his problems. It didn’t.

By 1993, it had been decided that the time had come to have a liver transplant, the last resort. He had numerous tests, both physical and psychological, extending over a number of months and in November was placed on the transplant waiting list.

March 26, 1994 was the date set for the local government elections in Queensland. I only remember that bit of trivia because it was also the day of Bill’s transplant operation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. A week before Easter. Good timing. The boys didn’t miss much school. The first God-incidence.

Surgery went well and Bill left hospital 12 days later. We moved into a hospital flat nearby as he still had to have daily check-ups. It was close to St Philip’s, Annerley, the parish church of the brothers of the Society of St Francis. When I rang, (God-incidence No2; I could have checked the board as we walked past), to inquire about service times, the Brother I spoke to suggested that “instead of going on Sunday, why not come on Saturday evening and then come and have a meal with us afterwards. We are starting it this week to see how it goes?” That sounded like a good idea to us, and just as well we went; (G-I No 3) there we met Brother Peter who had a friend, Harry, in New Zealand who had died on March 25 and whose family had donated his organs to the transplant program. Bill had been told that his new liver had come from NZ. What if...?

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We continued going to the Saturday evening service and dinner during the weeks we were in Brisbane, so got to know the brothers, especially Br Peter, quite well. Once Bill got to weekly visits though, he was allowed to go home between check-ups. Some months later, we were back for Bill’s regular check up at PAH. While Bill was seeing the doctors, I went across to the Buranda Shopping Centre to buy my groceries. Who should I run into in the car park but Br Peter, (G-I No 4)? He told me he had heard from his friend’s widow, Alison. She had had a thank you letter, (anonymously through the Transplant Service), from the liver recipient who was a farmer from west of Kingaroy, who had two sons at boarding school in Toowoomba. We would have known if there had been another liver recipient in the same district. Proof positive that Bill now had the friend’s liver.

Bill wrote to her again, when we sold our property and came to live in Toowoomba. Bill’s health improved even more once he was away from the stresses of owning a cattle and grain property in the middle of a severe drought and he now visited PAH for checkups on a yearly basis. We didn’t have to stay in Brisbane so we didn’t get to go back to St Philip’s.

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Once we came to Toowoomba, we attended St Bart’s, (G-I No 5), and came to know the wonderful lady Boltie. Boltie was a member of the Third Order of St Francis and when she graduated into heaven a number of Franciscans came up from Brisbane for her funeral. Among them was Br Peter. Speaking to him after the service, he told us that Alison had been over here in 2003 and tried to contact us, but couldn’t find us. We were excited that she wanted to meet us and gave him our address and phone number.

Two days later, we received a phone call from Alison. She would love to meet us if ever we were in New Zealand. That was the end of the God-Incidences. The rest of the story was planned. Well, almost.

Bill’s sister and brother-in-law were going on a cruise to New Zealand. How about we go too? (Was this G-I No 6?). Yes, we decided to go. Yes, we contacted Alison and arranged a meeting. Alison and her three sons met us for dinner in Auckland. Yes, it went really well.

There were photos of Harry, and it was surprising how similar they were in age and build, although Matt thought Bill looked more like his grandfather than his father. No wonder the liver was such a good match!

In a letter later, Alison told us that she is often asked how the meeting went. She went on

“My response was that it felt like a very natural friendship. The boys commented how very like Fred, Harry's father, Bill is. You are - and there is a natural fit of 'energy' between who you are and who Harry was.

“Part of the reason the liver took so well I guess, like you naturally belong together.

“Certainly as I reflect on that evening I think it will be one of the highlights of my life. That a simple little decision that we made has enabled another family to have a husband and father for a further 16 years is an unimaginable blessing.

“Thank you for making that a felt reality for us. Intellectually we knew it - but meeting you has made it real. You are part of our lives now - just as we have been part of yours.

“Thank you very much for that blessing. It is a gift to us all”.

We always knew what a blessing it had been for us. To know that the donor family also thinks of it as a blessing is another part of the miracle.

Dr Tracy Kennedy Shanks
Toowoomba, Australia