MAFS UKs Marilyse Corrigan to donate kidney to her ex: Its for my kids – they need a dad

Marilyse Corrigan has made the incredible decision to donate a kidney to save her ex partner Sean and will be going under the knife next week.

The 36 year old's ex suffers with polycystic kidney disease, which have "grown over the years". While the pair were together Sean told Marilyse that he may need a kidney someday, and the Married At First Sight beauty said she would get tested to see if she was a suitable donor.

Sean, who Marilyse shares sons Josh, 13, and Callum – who will turn 16 on the day of Marilyse's operation – with, was given the sad news he would need dialysis and a transplant from a donor in 2019.

His family desperately scrambled to see if they were suitable matches but they were not. So, Marilyse stuck to her word and got tested, but didn't tell her ex at first.

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After vigorous tests, Marilyse, who is also raising funds for Kidney Research UK, was told she was healthy enough to donate her kidney, but she couldn't directly donate to Sean. Instead, the pair are taking part in a kidney donation scheme, where Marylise's kidney will go to a woman in need and her ex will receive a kidney in turn.

In an incredibly candid and exclusive chat with OK!, Marilyse shares the story behind her inspirational decision to donate her kidney so her ex and her children can have a better quality of life….

Marilyse, can you tell us about the decision to donate your kidney so your ex can receive a new kidney?

"I was with my kids dad for about seven, eight years. And during the time that I was with him, he suffered with [and] knew that he had a kidney problem, called polycystic kidneys, which is cysts on his kidneys. And they've grown over the years.

"When we were together he had to go for regular hospital appointments to keep an eye on his kidney function. And every time it went it was dropping and I remember when he said to me: 'Oh my kidneys are only on 25%' when ours are a lot higher.

"When we were together I remember him being at hospital and him ringing me up to say to me: 'One day I'm going to have to have a kidney transplant'. And you don't really take it in. But, I said to him: 'If ever that was the case, obviously, I would go and get tested'. So he's remembered this very because he reminded me about it the other day – my memory isn't as good as his!

"Then, when we broke up he wasn't as bad as what he is now, he wasn't on dialysis, he just had very low kidney function. And then about three years ago he got told: 'Your kidneys are totally gone now, you need to go on dialysis'."

How did both he and your children react to the him going on dialysis?

"It's quite tough for him and it's tough for the children as well because at the time my youngest was 11 or 12 and my eldest was 14. So they were very upset because they don't understand it and we had to explain to them what it meant and they had to witness, when they were staying with their dad and he'd be on the machine every night, because that's where he did the dialysis from – from his bed at nighttime and I think he'd have it running overnight. So it wasn't a nice thing for the kids to be coming back and saying: 'We've been helping dad move the boxes of fluid from the van to his bedside' and watching his connect it to a dialysis machine."

What made you decide to volunteer as a donor?

"About two years ago his family members went for tests – because he's on the waiting list for a dead donor – to see if they can help him. Unfortunately none of them could, they had one thing or another that wasn't right or fit enough for him.

"And my kids were always worried about him and they'd cry, and it's not nice to see your kids cry and be upset.

"One day I rang up the hospital and asked: 'What do I do to go for tests to see if might be a match'. The hospital sent me the information though on a DVD to watch and some paperwork to fill in and send back to the hospital."

How did your ex react when you told him you were researching into being a donor for him?

"Sean came round to see the children and just when he was leaving I had the letter all ready to post and I thought: 'I may as well tell him about it' so I ran out to the car, handed him this letter and asked him to post it. And he said: 'What's this' and I said: 'It's the for the hospital, I filled in the form to see if I can go for tests'. And he drove off in tears and the kids texted me and said: 'Why is Daddy crying,' because they were in the car with him.

"From that day onwards I started going for tests – this was before Covid came along. It was quite extreme, I had to go for about four or five days – one day here, one day there, few hours here, few hours there. I'd have CT scans, blood tests, chest X-ray, kidney scan. To make sure I've got two kidneys to begin with and to see what my kidney function was, if I'm fit and healthy.

"And then I got the results back a few weeks later saying that I was healthy so I went in and had a meeting with the surgeon and he explained to me that I could give one of my kidneys but I wouldn't be able to do I directly to Sean because his body is bigger than mine and it wouldn't be ideal for him.

"So they suggested they have a kidney sharing scheme that they've been running for a while now and it's really successful – where if you really want to give a kidney to your friend, partner or relative you can do it but you swap with somebody else who wants to do the same. So I would be giving to a female and a male would be giving to Sean. So I agreed to that."

What happened then?

"I signed all the paperwork and Covid hit and because all operations had to be cancelled it was literally on stand still for about two years. And then during Covid, Sean couldn't have the kids because he had to isolate – he was a high risk patient. So I had the kids for a year while he did a few window visits to say hi to them.

"That was quite hard for the kids as well and if Covid ever hits again they'd have to go through all that again and it's just, they haven't got their dad right now. They can't go on holiday with him – they used to go on holiday a couple times a year – he can't even go swimming with them. They've got no quality of parenthood and childhood, really in a relationship."

Did you tell anyone at Married At First Sight about your upcoming operation?

"When I went on Married At First Sight I did explain to the producers beforehand, 'If I can't come or I have to pull out during filming this is why' because I might get a phone call from the hospital to say: 'Operations are running again, we've got Sean a match'. And they were understandable about that."

When did you get the news that you had found a match on the donor sharing scheme? How did you feel?

"About two months ago we got a phone call to say we have got Sean a match and so I knew that how I felt when I received this call – if I felt like 'Oh no, what's going on, stop' then I'd know I wasn't doing the right thing. But, because I felt so happy and relieved when I got that phone call I knew I'm definitely doing the right thing."

Tell us about the moment you told your children you were going to do this for their dad.

"I think I might have told them that I was going to go for the test anyway, I think I might have said to them, 'you know, I'm going to go and see if I can get tested'.

"In the back of my head I always thought: 'you know, I would go and do it,' because how I see it is if my kids needed a kidney themselves, I would jump at the chance I'd want to do it right now.

"So for me, this is my kids needing the kidney because I needed it for their dad, so that's how I look at it. And because my kids are so important and valuable to me then it makes the whole situation right."

Was there a particular moment when you decided you had to donate?

"So during the time that his family couldn't donate to him. And when they went for tests we were all like, 'oh, we can't wait to hear whether they can or not,' you know, 'have they got the results through?' And then each time it was like a 'no, no, no'.

"So then Josh was sat on my bed one day, and he was upset about his dad. And he was on his phone and he was quite like anxious. So I looked over his shoulder to see what it was doing. And he was Googling to see whether he was old enough to give his Daddy a kidney. And with that, I just thought: 'I have to do something, I can't just sit back and watch this'. And that's what really made my mind up."

To donate to Marilyse's Just Giving fundraiser for Kidney Research UK, click here.

With this kidney sharing scheme, how many people are involved in your donation case?

"If you think about it, it's not just Sean having the operation, it's more than one life that's being saved in this situation. In fact, I got told by the hospital, there's actually three couples in this in this kind of chain.

"So three operations that will be happening that day in different hospitals around the country, sharing kidneys."

How long will it take you both to recover?

"I'm in hospital for one night, as long as they can get things go OK. And then I'll be able to go home the next day, I won't be able to lift anything other than a cup of tea – not that I drink tea! And I'm just going to rest, I don't rest very much of my life as it is so I think, just in bed, have a rest, maybe watch MAFS Australia or something. And, then, hopefully be back on my feet and a few weeks, I hope not long, because I want to get back to normal by Christmas.

"And as for Sean, he's going to be in hospital between seven days to 10 days. So it's a bit more full on for him because they need to make sure his body doesn't reject the kidney. So he's going to be on a lot of medication and things."

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How are your kids feeling about you doing this for their dad?

"The kids appreciate it. I got a message from my eldest at school a couple of weeks ago. Just saying, 'Mum, I just want you to know that I really do appreciate what you're doing for us and Dad'. So you know, that means so much so much."

How are you feeling about the upcoming operation?

"Like I did with the wedding, actually, I was really nervous for weeks and weeks. And then when it came up to I just feel really fine. I think it's because I know it's happening, I had my pre-assessment – Sean and I did last week, where we had to go to Leeds hospital for the day and a have before tests to make sure nothing's changed. And we haven't heard anything, which no news is good news, it's all going ahead.

"So we've got four more days, and then it's happening. So I just feel fine, I know it's happening and I know the outcome is going to be positive, so what's there to be afraid of?"

To find out more about the kidney donation, visit Kidney Reasearch UK.

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