By Dan Harrison
David Santamaria’s surgeon told him his wife’s kidney was “beautiful”. (Supplied: Erin Santamaria)
The cliched Valentine’s Day gifts of flowers, chocolates and romantic dinners are not for David and Maureen Santamaria.
Instead, the couple were spending the day in Royal Melbourne Hospital, after Maureen gave David one of the most generous gifts imaginable — a kidney.
Mr Santamaria called in to ABC Radio Melbourne on Tuesday from his hospital bed to pay tribute to his “incredible wife”.
“I thought her courageous work was too good to leave as a secret,” he said.
Mr Santamaria, a teacher, was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease IgA Nephritis 13 years ago.
In March last year he was told he was in end stage kidney failure and would need either a transplant or to go on dialysis.
Maureen, a nurse who has also previously donated her bone marrow, stepped up.
“She said, ‘I’ll give you a kidney if it works’,” Mr Santamaria said.
Maureen Santamaria is a nurse who has previously donated bone marrow. (Supplied: Erin Santamaria )
Before the transplant could go ahead, the couple had to go through nine months of tests.
“We’ve been photographed, every part of our bodies have been checked out, we’ve had stress tests, we’ve checked out compatibility. And yes, 40 years ago she was compatible with me and she still is now,” Mr Santamaria said.
The couple underwent surgery on Tuesday, with Ms Santamaria’s kidney out of her body for less than 20 minutes before it was inserted into her husband’s body.
“My surgeon said it was a beautiful kidney, and it started working almost immediately,” Mr Santamaria said.
The pair, who have four children and eight grandchildren with another on the way, were recovering in rooms a few doors apart on Wednesday morning, too sore to get out of bed.
“They’re hoping to get me up about lunchtime and they’ll put me in a chair and we’ll go down and see Maureen,” Mr Santamaria said.
He admitted he was struggling to come up with an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift for his wife, but was considering an overseas trip.
“She wants to have a husband who’s free to go on holidays with her now that we’re getting into retirement, and we will be going on holidays,” he said.
“She’s always wanted to do the Canadian Rockies — that might be on the cards.”