IT'S a bittersweet blessing - an organ donation often means one life has been traded for another.
The Heart Lung Transplant Association is hosting an event in Gunnedah for people who have been affected by organ donation, either by having their life saved, or by making the decision to donate a loved one's organs after a tragedy to give someone else a second chance at life.
The social gathering will be held on Saturday, September 14 at ChatterChinos Cafe on Conadilly Street from 9.30am and goes all day.
Gunnedah woman Karen Kennedy received a double lung transplant 17 years ago and said the event would be an opportunity to share stories and provide support.
Ms Kennedy said she was devastated in 2001, when she was diagnosed with obliterative bronchiolitis, a degenerative lung disease which reduced her lung capacity to only 26 per cent.
"Initially, I was told there was nothing the doctors could do and to make the most of what life I had left," she said.
"By this stage I was on continuous oxygen, attached to an outlet on the hospital wall by a thin plastic tube like a dog tied up on a chain.
"I had no quality of life. Fortunately, I was placed on the waiting list for a double lung transplant and sent home."
No longer was I the highly motivated career woman juggling a full-time job with that of wife and mum.Karen Kennedy
For eight months she waited, slowly deteriorating and jumping at every phone call, "hoping that this would be the one that saved my life".
"I became a shadow of my former self, weighing just 40kg," Ms Kennedy said.
"No longer was I the highly motivated career woman juggling a full-time job with that of wife and mum.
"I was a fully dependent patient relying on the generosity of family, friends and a paid carer just trying to survive each day until I got a call that a set of lungs was available."
After two false alarms, she received a double lung transplant in May 2002, making a quick and full recovery.
"I haven't looked back and seventeen years later I am leading a full and active life," she said.
Ms Kennedy encouraged everyone to register as an organ donor.
- Visit donatelife.gov.au to register as a donor or phone 1800 777 203.