A loss for one family and second-chance for another
TRACEY Slatter is looking forward to visiting some people who are very important to her.
She owes them her lungs.
The Gladstone woman once lived with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease causing deep lung tissue to become thick and stiff.
In 2014, with three months left to live, she received a double-lung transplant.
Her second chance at life was possible because of organ donor Aileen Nguyen and the Nguyen family from Sydney, who had little time to grieve Aileen before her lungs were used to save Tracey's life.
In the months following the transplant Tracey wrote the Nguyens multiple letters, not giving away details in accordance with organ donor policy but secretly wanting to be found. While the first letter was "very hard" to write, she was eventually writing a letter for every milestone following the transplant.
"They tracked me down through Google , it took them 90 minutes" she said.
"They put in the transplant date and up popped that picture.
"My husband and I are sitting on the side of the bed just after I've been transplanted.
"The Observer story came up and they pretty much said 'oh, that's her'."
The Nguyens knew about Tracey's involvement with local cricket organisations from her letters and managed to find her number on a cricket website.
"It pretty much went from there," she said.
"They screamed through the phone 'you've got our sister's lungs'."
Tracey met with the Nguyens for the first time at the 2015 Melbourne Cricket Cup and has since formed a powerful bond with them.
"It's like it was meant to be because they've made it so easy," she said.
"They've opened up their home, their family, their life, for me.
"Aileen's mum rings me every now and then just to see if I'm OK and basically treats me like her daughter."
Tracey said her experience as an organ recipient changed her outlook on life.
"I certainly don't take it for granted, that's for sure.
"I make the most of every moment because I've been given the ultimate gift.
"That's the way I thank them, by living my life to the fullest.
"I've got all my kids here, their partners and my grandson, all here in Gladstone and we're always together.
"We just value each other more."
Tracey said she wanted to emphasise the positive implications of an organ recipient knowing their donor family, if both parties agreed.
"Our circumstance has been a great circumstance and both families don't regret a thing," she said.
"I know that Aileen's family knowing me get a lot of comfort out of what they did because they can see what they've done for me and my family.
"Everything that happens in my life, I always email them and say it's because of you that I can do this."
Tracey will fly to Sydney on Wednesday to be featured on an SBS program with the Nguyens.
"I believe they're very brave to do things like this," she said.
"It brings up old wounds."