I had the pleasure of speaking with Kate Hansen, cast member from the organ donation documentary Dying to Live about life on the waiting list.
Jared: I was recommended to you by Allan from Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation. How do you and Allan know each other?
Kate: I’m a Zaidee’s ambassador. We met about four years ago when he was launching Zaidee’s book and we’ve just communicated over social media.
I was a fan of Zaidee’s charity and I found out six years ago I needed a transplant. Then I started to get really involved with Zaidee’s and last year I got made a Zaidee’s ambassador.
It’s the best thing that could have happened to me to be honest.
Jared: What has been one of the most rewarding things about being an ambassador for Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation?
Kate: Honestly, it gives me a purpose.
My story is a little unique.
I didn’t just wake up sick one day. I was very successful working in real estate.
I was earning six-figures a year, traveling the world and living in the city and then I started to notice that my kidney function was going down.
I am a Type 1 diabetic so we were monitoring it. Then I developed a symptom called PRES Syndrome that no one’s really heard of. It stands for Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome.
The PRES made the left side of my brain swollen and I had a seizure and crashed my car while I was having a seizure and ended up in The Alfred Intensive Care for the last four weeks in a coma.
Jared: What did you have to do to recover?
Kate: I couldn’t speak. When I talked it was fairly broken and people couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. They actually thought I’d had a stroke because of the signs that I was displaying but it’s the syndrome PRES.
My brain injury that I got from the accident is cognitive, so I can speak very well now but I can’t dress myself very well. I fall over a lot and I’ve got really bad blood pressure, high and low.
As a result of the accident I damaged my kidney and pancreas to such a state that I need both of those transplanted as soon as possible.
Jared: What are you most worried about? What are you most concerned about?
Kate: Running out of time.
Last year my heart actually stopped twice and I was brought back on two different occasions. During those times the professors at the Monash Medical Centre told me that my body is just giving up.
It’s been fighting through almost seven years now and everything I’ve overcome. I mean, I’ve overcome amputations of my feet. I’ve overcome so much, pancreatitis, gallbladder issues.
It’s literally just been one thing after another. My body’s just literally giving up on me and I’m not ready to give up on me so it’s very frustrating to know that if I don’t get a transplant this year I won’t see next Christmas.
Jared: How do you stay strong for yourself through all these adversities?
Kate: I have an amazing support network, I really do.
I’ll be honest with you Jared, I don’t necessarily fight for me anymore because I’m tired, I’m so exhausted and in so much pain. I would like it to be over to a certain degree but I can’t give up on my friends, my family, my fiancee and the complete strangers who message me via my social media site and tell me that I’m their inspiration.
How can I allow myself to back down when people are relying on me?
So becoming a Zaidee’s ambassador just absolutely heightened that and took me to a whole different mindset and now so determined just to get the message out there and get people talking.
Just let people know that just because you share your story, you’re not after likes and compliments. You’re a survivor and you’re letting people know that they’re not the only one. So that’s how I really get through things these days.
Jared: You’re on the transplant list. What do you have to do to stay eligible to be on that transplant list?
Kate: I have to be sick enough to need a transplant, but not too sick that I can’t have a transplant.
I need to stay healthy as much as I can, I need to stay active, not have any falls, no more amputations and things because every time I get put under that causes me to be put off the list for at least a month.
Jared: Can you explain the documentary?
Kate: I was actually the first person to star in the documentary with Allan.
Probably a quarter of the producers asked Allan, “Do you have anyone you could recommend that I could film that are either waiting or have had a transplant?”
He recommended me. They filmed us reading Zaidee’s Rainbow Shoelaces book from that day one.
Three and a half years ago we’ve been filming all different events. We’ve had six of us that are in the documentary. It shows what it’s like to be on the list.
Jared: How would you want to be remembered after you’re gone?
I want to be remembered as the girl that loved pink. The girl that laughed, the girl that had cried, and given and lived.
I used to say when I was in rehab, if you can get up and go to the toilet and take a few steps yourself then if you did you’ve got nothing to be worried about. There’s nothing stopping you from overcoming what’s happening.
Jared: Is there anything that’s stopping you from having organ donations from another country?
Kate: Yes. A lot of times I’ve had people say to me, “You could go to India and buy what you need”, “You can go to Russia and you can get what you need”, and all these other not so desirable places and I could get what I need for money.
One, as a morality kind of thing I don’t think that the rich should be able to get better because they can afford to and the poor should die because they can’t afford to. That’s my first argument.
The second argument is how do you know where that organ has come from? Has it comes from a willing donor? Or does it belong to a cow? You’d never know in these certain types of countries what you’re actually going to get. You hear stories all the time about people waking up in ice baths missing a kidney. I don’t know, it’s an absolute no, no for me.
Jared: I want you now to imagine that you are in a room with 18 year old you. What would you tell her?
Don’t worry about materialistic things. Just be at one with your body and listen to it because there were so many warning signs that things were going wrong that I just brushed aside and I should have listened to them along time ago.
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