When Archer Irwin left the Border months ago in an air ambulance, his body was swollen, yellowing and slowly failing.
But now he's home.
Last Saturday, Archer and his mum Nikki watched the Western Bulldogs defeat Carlton by three points, in their own Wodonga lounge room.
There was no whirring of machinery, no page echoing over hospital loudspeakers.
Just their family reunited, watching the footy, on their own couch. An absolutely ordinary but miraculous moment.
Since Archer, 7, received a liver transplant earlier this year there have been a lot of these moments.
Ordinary, average occurrences made spectacular by the fact they almost didn't happen.
"We came within days to weeks of losing him," Nikki said. "So to see how amazing Archer feels and looks following the transplant is phenomenal."
Thinking about a future, together
For most of this year, Nikki and Archer, who was diagnosed with alpha one antitrypsin deficiency as a baby, have been living between the Royal Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.
Archer's sister Sienna remained on the Border with her grandparents while father Hayden divided his time between his two children and work.
"How grateful we are to be a family again after months separated," Nikki said.
"It feels like we have been in a time warp bubble and then released."
For years it's been hard for the Irwins to make plans, or stick to plans.
They never knew how Archer would be feeling or when they would get the call that would change their lives.
But now the Irwin family can make plans they'll be able to stick to.
"I feel I can breathe again, and plan for our future with Archer a part of that," Nikki said.
"To see him out of pain and trauma was my greatest wish. To see him running and full of life is something I only dreamt of."
IN OTHER NEWS:
To protect Archer and the identity of the donor and their family, the Irwins cannot go into details about the liver transplant or when it occurred. But they can say how it has changed everything.
"We will be forever grateful to our donor angel and their hero family for giving us this second chance," Nikki said.
"They will never truly know or understand how this gift will change our lives for the better.
"There is no better gift than knowing Arch will definitely be part of our future."
Then to now: two years of change
Archer is one of 198 Victorians whose lives have been saved through organ donation already in 2019, and his story will be shared nationally during DonateLife week, which runs from July 28 to August 4.
DonateLife Victoria Acting Director of Nursing and Operations Leanne McEvoy said DonateLife week was a chance for everyone to think of organ donation and share their intentions with their loved ones.
She said in 2018, 1782 lives were transformed in Australia thanks to 554 deceased and 238 living organ donors and their families.
There is no better gift than knowing Arch will definitely be part of our future.Nikki Irwin, whose son Archer, 7, received a life-saving liver donation
"Whether the decision is a 'yes' or 'no', it's vitally important that people have this discussion with their loved ones, and also to record that decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register," Ms McEvoy said.
Ms McEvoy said all the people featured in the 2019 campaign, including Archer, were important reminders of what organ donation was all about - saving lives.
READ MORE ABOUT ARCHER'S JOURNEY:
In 2017 Archer, then a cheeky five-year-old in need of a transplant, was also a face of DonateLife week.
At the time, Nikki told The Border Mail Archer was reluctant to be the centre of attention, but wanted to help other children like him.
"He didn't like it at the start, he doesn't like the attention and people talking about him being sick all the time," she said in 2017. We've changed tactics a little and told him he's helping other people - he loves it now."
Since then, there have been tears of joy and laughter and sorrow as Archer's condition deteriorated and the family feared the worst.
And then a donation, the gift of life, and a homecoming.
A lot has happened in just two years, but Archer's desire to help is still there.
"It feels like a lifetime ago that we were part of 2017 campaign," Nikki said.
"Archer has endured so much trauma both physically and mentally from then to now. It is a cruel path to be on, to be waiting for a selfless and amazing donor and their family to gift Archer his chance to start living.
"There can be no greater or [more] priceless gift that can be given, than the gift of life."
One of the very, lucky ones
Although Archer is home and off the transplant list, many people he and Nikki know from their time in Melbourne are still waiting for the call.
Nikki said it was hard to leave their "away from home" family in Melbourne, especially a 10-year-old girl named Ava and her mother, who were still waiting desperately for a new heart for Ava.
Recently that Melbourne 'family' lost a member.
"The family didn't get the chance to get the lifesaving call," Nikki said.
"This should just not be happening... no family should be losing loved ones."
Nikki said their hospital and Ronald McDonald House family, consisting of staff and fellow patients and their families, helped them through some tough months and years, as did their own family members, friends and their Border medical team and staff at Albury Base Hospital.
Although he may be home, Archer still needs to heal.
"Arch still has a long recovery ahead of him and will be in isolation for the next two months, but it will all be worth it in the end," she said. "I cannot wait to watch Archer do so many amazing things in this world."
Nikki said the anonymous donor and their family, who made the decision to donate their organs, would always have a place in their hearts.
She said they would never be forgotten. Instead they'll be thought of in every ordinary moment with Archer, that's also miraculous, because it almost wasn't.
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