A selfless act by an anonymous stranger triggered a medical marathon in Melbourne that could save six lives.
Surgeons performed 12 operations across four Melbourne hospitals in the nation's first six-way paired kidney-swap on Thursday, as revealed by 7News last night.
The donor, whose identity is known only to medical staff, offered his kidney to a stranger, prompting a chain that saw the loved ones of five people who needed kidneys donating organs, and their loved ones receiving them.
Nephrology chief at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor Steve Holt, said the patients probably would not have been able to get a transplant without the program.
Mother-of-one Brylie Vines has been on the waiting list for a donor kidney for 18 months.
She spends eight hours a night on dialysis.
"To be able to sit up past 8pm and watch a movie, not to have to be in bed, my whole life will change," Brylie told 7News reporter Karen O'Sullivan .
The 31-year-old's mum, Leanne, wanted to donate a kidney to her daughter, but she was not compatible.
"I think I lost a day of my life," Leanne said. "I was shattered."
But the determined mother refused to give up and joined the National Kidney Exchange program.
Leanne says it is the perfect way to help her daughter and, at the same time, help someone else in desperate need of a healthy kidney.
"Someone's helping my daughter, and I'm helping someone else," she said.
Surgeons pull off Australia's biggest ever kidney swap here in Melbourne. Photo: Karen O'Sullivan
The 12 surgeries to remove and transplant kidneys took place at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Austin Hospital, Melbourne Private and the Monash Medical Centre with back-to-back operations starting at 8am.
The mammoth operation involved nine surgeons, many working double shifts, 12 anesthetists, 36 nurses and 12 theatre technicians.
"My life is about to change for me and my son," Brylie said. "I'm getting a kidney from a stranger, so I want to thank them so much."
Brylie's new kidney was delivered by courier to the Monash Medical Centre for transplant, while in the theatre next door, her mum's healthy kidney was removed and sent by courier to be transplanted at the Royal Melbourne.
During the amazing kidney swap, five people will donate a kidney, knowing their loved one will receive one of the precious organs.
Feeling sore but not sorry after her surgery, Leanne was still thinking of others.
"I just want it all to go well now for my daughter, and hope my kidney goes to someone who really does need it," she said.
Royal Melbourne Hospital surgeon Tim Furlong, who performed two of the operations, said the organ swap took months to organise.
"We had a bit of time pressure to make sure we got through all the operations," Mr Furlong told Fairfax Radio.
"When I left last night the final recipient at our hospital was just being finished up, that was at the conclusion of a normal day's operating."
It will be several days before it is known whether the transplants were successful.