Australian writer and yoga instructor Martine Allars was a 24-year-old spending her summer as an editorial assistant and waitress in Sydney when her life changed forever.
Known for always striving to keep fit despite the blistering Sydney heat, Allars was in the middle of her routine workout when something felt off.
In the middle of training for a race, she was accustomed to her four laps around the park, but this day was so different. Her skin was clammy rather than sweaty. Her running shoes felt too tight. Her legs were heavy, her breathing ragged.
And things got worse as the days went on.
Allars watched as her completion times got slower and slower. The numbers on the scale got higher and higher.
Was this what came with age? It couldn’t be, could it? Allars was packing on pounds by the day, her ankles began “draping in folds over the edges of [her] shoes,” and her joints were so swollen with fluid that even the slightest of bending hurt.
She felt like a circus freak:
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have an experience to measure it against. My youth told me I was indestructible, but I felt like I was falling apart.
After two weeks, Allars knew it was time to do something. So she went to the doctor.
Blood tests brought back devastating results — the specialist informed her about lupus, an immune disorder that causes the body to attack itself, yielding effects that can range from a skin rash to organ failure.
Her body was in full-on attack on her kidneys.
Allars had no choice but to move back in with her parents, who were shocked and saddened when their puffy, fluid-filled daughter showed up at their doorstep.
It was as if life changed in an instant.
Following a trip to her doctor, she was sent straight to the hospital, with doctors rushing to relieve her body of the excess fluid in an effort to save her life.
The following six months were dreadful. She was administered drug after drug and spent way more time hovering above a vomit-filled toilet bowl than she wanted.
But slowly, Allars began to look like herself again. She was gradually regaining strength.
However, the damage to her kidneys had already been done. The truth was set in stone. Her doctor advised her that someday, she would need a kidney transplant.
Allars couldn’t accept it:
I didn’t believe him. I thought that would be my only brush with ill health. That I couldn’t be that unlucky.
Sure enough, as the years went on, she was hit with two more lupus episodes — each wreaking more havoc on her body than the one before.
By the time she was 37, Allars was in desperate need of a transplant.
Luckily, her father was a match and was able to donate a kidney to his daughter. But that still wasn’t the end of her woes.
Contrary to popular belief, a transplant is no magical end to health issues. In Australia, the average life span of a transplanted kidney is only around 15 to 20 years.
Here in America, according to a report from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a kidney from a living donor can function for 12 to 20 years. From a deceased donor, the average span lowers to eight to 12 years.
Those with kidney failure must often begin dialysis treatments, a procedure that does what the kidneys no longer can by removing waste, salt, and extra water from the body, keeping a safe level of specific chemicals in the blood and helping to regulate blood pressure.
While dialysis can be lifesaving, the report states it is only capable of 10 percent of what a functioning kidney can do.
Despite having received a kidney from her father, Allars had no choice but to resort to dialysis — six hours a session, three times a week. Neglecting the treatment would be fatal.
At 42 now, Allars feels her whole adult life has been about trying to stay well and stay alive.
She is now a proponent of registering to become an organ donor and for having the conversation with loved ones when pursuing registration becomes a desire.
It’s an important issue for her, seeing as though she knows firsthand what it’s like to be on the other side, waiting for a donation — a promise of just a little more time on earth.
But even then, she doesn’t forget how fortunate she is. Even if the clock is ticking:
I am so grateful to still be here. Most of all, I am thankful that I am still able to live a really full life while I wait.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those in pursuit of organ donor registration can register by making the informed decision to donate, signing up online or at a motor vehicle department, and being sure to inform loved ones of their registration.