TV star faces the reality of organ donation and gives the best Christmas gift she can.
When Married At First Sight star Marilyse Corrigan discovered her ex-partner Shaun needed a kidney transplant, she didn’t hesitate to offer up one of her own. Shaun, the father of her two children, Josh, 13, and Callum, 16, had suffered from polycystic kidney disease for years. In 2019, he was told he needed a transplant.
“I felt it was my responsibility to help out, especially when his own family members weren’t a match for him,” says Marilyse, 37. “We haven’t been together for about 10 years, but I still care for him and I hated seeing my children so upset about their dad. About two and half years ago, Shaun’s kidney function declined and he had to go on dialysis. That meant it was hard for them to do normal things like go swimming or go on holiday together, and Shaun looked really unwell. His face was grey.
“Years ago, when we were still together, I’d told Shaun when the time came, I’d happily donate a kidney for him. Now, even though we’re no longer together, I still see him as a family member. I lost my dad when I was the same age Callum is now, and that really motivated me to offer up my own kidney.”
The kidney sharing scheme
After tests were completed, Marilyse, who lives in Yorkshire, was told that although she was a match, her kidney was too small for Shaun’s body.
“Doctors told me that there was another option – the kidney sharing scheme. My first reaction was, ‘I don’t want my kidney in a stranger’s body’. But then I thought, ‘Why not?’ I just want to help him live and it doesn’t matter if it comes from me or someone else’s body.”
The way the scheme works is that a few times a year, people in the scheme are “matched” to each other. Marilyse donated her kidney to someone else, and their donor gave theirs to Shaun. The four-way operation took place in November this year.
Marilyse says, “Before the operation my children told me how much they appreciated what I was doing for their dad, and how much they loved me. It must have been scary knowing both parents would be in surgery on the same day, but they were so supportive. Afterwards they said to me, ‘Mum, that was like the longest day ever.’”
In the run up, Marilyse felt anxious. “It hung over me for weeks and weeks, because I felt everything was reliant on me. Life felt like it was on standstill. But then on the morning of the operation I was strangely calm and relieved it was going ahead.
“My brother drove me and Shaun to the hospital. We were in different buildings so we hugged each other good bye and said good luck. Both of our operations went really well.”
Often recovery from the operation can be more of a challenge for the person donating the kidney rather than the recipient. Marilyse says, “When I saw Shaun the following day, he looked like a different person. He already had the colour back in his face, while I felt like I was dying!”
Speaking to us two weeks post-transplant, however, Marilyse is almost back to full fitness. She says, “For the first few days, I had to sleep on my back, but now I can sleep on my side again. I’m going out with friends and everything is normal again bar the fact I’m not 100 per cent back to my usual fitness regime. Even the scar’s not really that bad.”
Meanwhile, Shaun is also recovering well while the donor kidney settles down. Marilyse says, “He wasn't allowed to drive a car to start with, has to take a lot of tablets and still goes to the hospital three times a week for check-ups. But he’s had his dialysis lines taken out which will be really nice for him.”
Since going public with her story, Marilyse has heard from many people up and down the country. “Before this, I didn’t realise how common kidney disease was and it’s been great to get the opportunity to raise awareness and also reassure people,” she says. “I’m happy to chat to anyone going through the same thing as me.”
Now, Marilyse has joined forces with Kidney Research UK to help spread the word further. “This is the charity Shaun supports. His sister ran the London Marathon for them last year, and I wanted to do my bit and keep that involvement going. The work they do to help kidney patients is amazing. I understand the charity is investigating how to make more kidneys available for transplant, and how to make kidney transplants last longer. It’s so important, and I’ve seen first-hand how a transplant can transform someone’s life.
“It’s just so wonderful for the boys to have their dad back.”
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