WATCH: Organ recipient to meet family of her saviour
IMAGINE knowing you're only alive because someone else died - and then meeting that person's family.
Tomorrow, Tracey Slatter will meet the family of the organ donor who gave her a second chance at life.
Double lung transplant recipient Tracey is heading south to see the great race, the Melbourne Cup, but will feel greater emotion when she meets the Nguyen family, whose loved one Aileen's organs saved Tracey's life.
For two years Tracey lived with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis - a rare disease with no cure that causes tissue deep within the lungs to become thick and stiff.
She struggled to breathe, or do every day activities, was confined to a wheelchair at one point and had no hope of survival.
"I was just existing," Tracey said. "It wasn't living - just existing."
But in March last year she underwent a double lung transplant and after two days was up and walking around again.
During her recovery she began writing letters to the family of the woman whose organ donation allowed her to live.
Aileen would have celebrated her 38th birthday yesterday.
One day a few months ago, Tracey was sitting at home in her lounge room when her phone rang.
"The person on the other end said 'I'm ringing about your illness and letters you've been writing'," Tracey said.
"I told them, what illness - I'm well.
"They started asking questions and suddenly it triggered and I heard someone yelling 'we've found her'. Then they said, 'you've got our sister's lungs'.
"I didn't know how to feel. It was overwhelming."
The person on the other end of the phone was Suzie Nguyen, Aileen's sister.
Suzie and her other sister had been talking about the letters and decided to see what they could find on the internet using clues Tracey had given them.
"My heart was thumping," Suzie Nguyen said.
"We found what we thought was her number from the cricket club's website and without even thinking we dialled and Tracey picked up.
"We had no second thoughts about how she would feel about us calling her.
"We felt she wanted to be found."
Tracey says she did want to be found, and now that it's happened and they've organised to meet, she's feeling excited but overwhelmed.
"It's all become so real now," Tracey said.
"I wanted to let them know how grateful we were - (the donation) turned my life around."
On Wednesday Tracey's children will have the chance to tell the Nguyen family face to face how thankful they are to still have a mother.
"I don't think the word 'thank you' is enough. I don't think there is any word to explain how grateful I am. How grateful my family is."
"I have no idea what I am going to say and I don't think they do either.
"But I know all about her. She's part of our family now and her photo has pride of place in our lounge room.
"It's amazing how it's brought our two families together, through her gift to me."
The last time Tracey went to the Melbourne Cup she was in a wheelchair and incredibly ill.
She won't have the wheelchair this time, but it will still be a difficult journey.
"We're going to take each day as it comes."