Vicki Denniss and Elena Reed have an incredible bond. Denniss is a donor mum. Her beautiful 23-year-old daughter Jess Mclennan was taken by a dangerous driver. Reed is a recipient mum. Her son Nicholas received a new liver when he was six months old.
Current laws in Australia prevent donor families and recipient families from being put in touch with each other. They’re allowed to exchange letters, so long as they don’t give their identities away.
Denniss has never met the people who received Jess’s organs. Reed has never met the family who donated their child’s liver to Nicholas.
But Denniss, from Victoria, and Reed, from NSW, connected with each other via social media, and have formed a bond that has given both of them a lot of comfort.
“Vicki is amazing,” Reed tells Mamamia. “We’ve built this relationship to somehow give both of us closure. She pretends that Nicholas is the recipient of Jess’s liver, and I pretend that Jess is the donor.
“Jess is now a guardian angel for Nicholas. And any time Nicholas is sick, Jess looks after him.”
Denniss says she feels very protective of Nicholas.
“He has been in my prayers often and I cry when he is sick. I’ve never held him but I do love him.”
It was late one night in June 2016 that Denniss held her daughter Jess’s hand, walking next to her as she was wheeled into theatre.
“I kissed her goodbye at the theatre door as she was taken in for organ donation,” she says. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I cannot explain the sadness and pain I felt in my heart and still do to this day, but in this sadness I knew we could stop this pain for other families.”
A few months later, Denniss received a letter from the woman who had received Jess’s heart.
“I cannot tell you how important that letter was to me,” she says.
Just last week Denniss received a “truly beautiful letter” from the man who had received Jess’s kidney. She is still hoping to hear from the other recipients.
“If you knew what we went through, you would understand how important it is to us,” she says. “’Thank you’ is all some families want. Even if they never write back, they still would have loved your letter.”