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Mother’s kidney is the winning match for tennis champion, Linda

At the age of 37, Linda Petrovski was as fit as a fiddle. An accomplished exercise professional and personal trainer, Linda had always been full of vitality until she started to develop unusual symptoms. A combination of lethargy, constant headaches, swollen ankles and sudden weight gain was confusing for someone who was accustomed to excellent health.

Pathology tests showed protein in her urine, prompting doctors to urgently perform a kidney biopsy. A kidney biopsy involves taking one or more samples of kidney which are sent to a pathology lab to be analysed under special microscopes. Renal diseases can affect various components of the kidney and therefore samples need to be stained with multiple stains to assess various components of kidney tissue. Kidney biopsies are highly technical and very labour intensive, requiring a high level of expertise to obtain a rare diagnosis.

The anatomical pathologist diagnosed Linda with a rare form of nephrotic syndrome. She was told her options were transplant, dialysis or death.

“When doctors told me the news, it was a very hard pill to swallow but I knew I had to accept it. My inner-strength helped me to keep going”, said the mother of two.

Nephrotic Syndrome (NS) is a collection of symptoms that indicate kidney damage. It is characterised by excess proteins in the urine, exceptionally low levels of albumin in the blood and swelling caused by fluid trapped in the body’s tissues.

Despite the doctor’s prognosis, Linda managed to continue living normally for seven years. During that period, her kidney function decreased steadily until eventually doctors needed to intervene – it was time to begin the search for an organ donor.

Little did Linda know but her mother was preparing herself to become an organ donor.  At 62, Sylvana Crkovski knew she would need to be in good health for the operation so she revamped her diet and fitness regime and succeeded in losing 10kg. Linda’s nephrologist noticed the change and agreed to test if she was a match.

Compatibility testing for organ donors begins with a blood test to examine their blood type and determine if it will match the recipient’s blood. If their blood type is compatible with the recipient, they’ll receive further blood tests such as tissue typing and cross-matching to see if the recipient will react to their kidney. If there is no reaction, the transplant surgery can take place.

Sylvana underwent six months of health assessments, involving DNA and blood tests. Finally, pathology results gave Linda’s family the news they were hoping for: Sylvana was a perfect match.

On the day of their surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital, Linda and her mother held each other’s hands as they were wheeled into the operating theatre. Linda will never forget the words her mother said to the surgeon just before the operation: “If the first kidney doesn’t work, take the other kidney”. Sylvana was willing to sacrifice both kidneys and endure dialysis if it meant saving her daughter’s life. The procedures went well and mother and daughter were released after five days.

Linda will need to take medication and undergo regular testing for the rest of her life but since the operation, she has vowed to live life to the fullest.

This July Linda competed in the Transplant World Games in Spain, where she won a gold medal in paddle tennis. When she’s not smashing it on the tennis court, Linda’s busy volunteering as a Fit for Life ambassador which sees her visiting patients in dialysis wards.

With the arrival of  Donate Life Week on the 31st July, Linda wants to encourage more people to donate their organs. “I urge every Australian to make their donation decision count by heading to donatelife.gov.au and registering their donation decision.”