I was born in Italy in 1943, and as a baby I became very dehydrated. We got kicked out of our village with the German occupation and my mother lost her milk. I’m told I was in a coma for the first 3-4 months of my life and it sounds like I am lucky to be alive. But I think this was the start of my staghorn calculus, which appeared later. We moved to Australia when I was 16 and when we arrived, I couldn’t speak a word of English. So I was working in my uncle’s restaurant in the day and learning English at a technical college at night. I also did my HSC at tech, and I remember when I started studying engineering at Sydney University, how happy I was to be around people of my age. I met a really nice group of friends, and many of them were medical students, who encouraged me to switch from engineering to medicine. In my medical student days, after a run, I noticed I had blood in my urine. I got it checked out and it turned out to be staghorn calculus. I lost that kidney, and the doctor told me, “You will have a normal life but you have to drink two litres of water a day.” With just one kidney, I kept running to keep fit, and along with others at a running club I’d joined, I trained anywhere from 40km-100km a week. Running was the only sport I had time for. I was a solo GP for 30 years between 1972 and 2002 in Revesby, NSW, where I was delivering babies, doing a bit of surgery and doing after hours as well. My wife and I also have five children, so there was no time for anything. I then joined a group practice in Bankstown, and that gave me a bit more time as there were five of us. When my remaining kidney started to malfunction and then fail, I had to stop work when I was 68. Six months after I started dialysis, my sister came to visit me from the US, where she lived. I thought she was just there to offer encouragement to me, but she said, “No, I’ve come to give you one of my kidneys.” I’ve just competed in three events at the 2016 Australian Transplant Games in Penrith in Western Sydney and I managed to win a gold medal in the 30km bike road race, a silver medal for the 3km run/walk and another silver medal in mixed doubles tennis. I’m looking forward to the next World Transplant Games, which will be held in Spain in 2017. I am so grateful to my sister for donating her kidney, but she has said, “Don’t even thank me, don’t put me on a pedestal, I don’t want anything for it.” I am very lucky to have a sister like that. What can you do, how do you thank someone who has given you an extension of your life?

Dr Bruce Orsatti
Sydney, NSW