Port Kembla organ recipient donates wife's kidneys

Hard decision: Grieving husband and liver transplant recipient Domenico Notarianni with granddaughter Alessia Nisyrios. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
Hard decision: Grieving husband and liver transplant recipient Domenico Notarianni with granddaughter Alessia Nisyrios. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Port Kembla grandfather Domenico Notarianni owes his life to an organ donor, but he never thought he'd have to make the same heart-wrenching decision to donate the organs of the one he loved.

Almost a quarter of a century after Mr Notarianni underwent a life-saving liver transplant, his wife of 55 years suffered a massive brain injury in a hit-and-run incident at Warrawong in 2012.

Daughter Fulvia Nisyrios said her father sat silently beside her mother Gemma's hospital bed in the days after the tragic event, in "complete agony", just holding her hand and weeping quietly.

But when doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do for the 74-year-old matriarch, Mr Notarianni shocked his four children with his words.

"When we were told our mother would not make it, out of the blue, my father said: 'I want to donate her organs'," Mrs Nisyrios said.

"We quickly understood how important it was for him and we were so proud of him that in his time of greatest grief, he thought of that."

Domenico Notarianni with his daughter Fulvia Nisyri and granddaughter Alessia Nisyri. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Domenico Notarianni with his daughter Fulvia Nisyri and granddaughter Alessia Nisyri. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Mr Notarianni's decision to donate his wife's kidneys means that two other lives have been saved. It's given the 81-year-old, and his family, some comfort as they grieve for a loving wife, mother and grandmother.

"Like the parents who made that difficult decision to donate their son's organs 25 years ago - allowing Dad's journey to continue - now other lives can continue because of Dad's decision," Mrs Nisyrios said.

"If Dad had died 25 years ago, he would not have seen all his kids get married, nor met all his grandchildren, nor have been by Mum's side for so many years."

DonateLife Week was recognised in the first week of August, and as part of the ongoing activities, Mrs Nisyrios will share her family's experience of having both an organ recipient - and donor - during a talk at a Sydney event this weekend.

A video featuring the Port Kembla family has also been created by Why Documentaries, based at the University of Wollongong's Innovation campus, for the NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service.

Mrs Nisyrios said that her father was the 96th transplant recipient in Australia in 1990.

"Dad had cirrhosis of the liver, thought to be caused by him contracting hepatitis when younger," she said.

"His health deteriorated suddenly and significantly, and he would have died without a transplant.

"Afterwards, we were told that he'd be lucky to live five more years - he'd get 10 years at most. He's still with us 25 years on and I can't imagine how life would have been if we'd lost him."

In the video, Mr Notarianni says in his native Italian: "If you're listening to me, the family who donated the liver - I thank you again, this donation has been great. Not only for me but for all of us, thank you very much."