After being on dialysis for more than two years, Ian Wilson has finally had his Christmas wish come true.
In the end it was his wife Carol who came to the rescue of the beloved local shopping centre Santa Claus, donating one of her kidneys in a procedure at Westmead Hospital last week.
Ian has been attending Blacktown Regional Dialysis Centre three times a week for regular treatment in order to keep his body functioning since April 2018.
He had no idea he had any kidney problems until a test revealed they were down to eight per cent function – a shock to him because he lives a relatively healthy lifestyle.
“I am not a diabetic, I don’t have high cholesterol and I am reasonably fit, so I didn’t think I would be at risk. I later found out I have polycystic kidneys and that was inherited down from my grandparents,” Ian said.
“I knew I would eventually need a transplant, but there’s always someone worse off than you. If I continued my dialysis I would still have another 10 or so years in me, and I was content with that.”
Ian’s wife of nearly 40 years has been with him every step of the way, supporting him through both diagnosis and treatment.
“We started at-home dialysis treatment and I think that’s when Carol saw me struggling. She said to me, ‘Ian I’m going to donate my kidney to you’.
“I tried to tell her no because the only operation she’s ever had was getting her tonsils out, she’s never had a single stitch in her body, but she told me that it wasn’t my decision and it was something she really wanted to do. She got all the tests and it turns out she was a match.
“It was such an obvious decision to her and in that moment I knew she loved me.”
The pair underwent a successful transplant last Wednesday and Ian said he is feeling great.
“I thought I would be in agony, but besides a slight discomfort, I am feeling really good.
“I feel different, I feel like my body is finally working the way it should have been this whole time and I only have Carol to thank for that.
“She is a gem, my true saviour.”
Even while living with end-stage kidney failure, Ian had commitments he refused to give up.
For the last 14 years he’s donned a big red coat, fluffy hat and black boots every holiday season.
“I go to shopping centres, Christmas parties, you name it. I like to spread joy and make another people happy and by being Santa I can do that,” he said.
“I meet hundreds of people every year and they all tell me what they’d like for Christmas.
“I have to remember not to promise anything, because you never know what situation the family is in, but I try and remind them, ‘be good for their parents, and you never know what surprise you will get’.”
Despite his health scare, Ian refuses to stop enjoying life and living it to the fullest.
“Carol and I have four kids and seven grandkids and I want to be there to see them grow up.
“Of course I’ve been fearful of the future, I am still petrified that my body will reject Carol’s kidney and I will be back to square one. But life’s too short to not live in the moment.
“I refuse to die before I’m dead.”
Although he has replaced his big red coat for a hospital gown this holiday season, Ian assures us that he will be back and jolly next Christmas.
“Me and Mrs Claus are taking a little break this year but the elves are working hard to make sure all the children still get their presents.
“I already got my Christmas wish and now all I want is a speedy, safe recovery for both myself and Carol.”