1. ITV Report

Exclusive: The greatest gift a friend could ever give

Our cameras have followed Danika's transplant journey Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Danika Cross from Middlesbrough knows just how special the gift of life can be.

Just three weeks ago she had a kidney transplant. It came from a living donor - a close friend of the 29-year-old.

Danika and her family allowed our cameras to follow her transplant journey every step of the way, including the operation.

I'm just tied to the hospital. That's my whole life, is being on treatment, managing my health, not having any energy to make plans and be with people I'd like to be with.

– Danika - prior to her operation
  • Watch the full video here:
  • *Warning* the video contains footage from an operating theatre

Danika was born with Spina Bifida, a condition where a baby's spine and spinal cord doesn't develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

She says it caused problems with her kidneys since childhood.

Danika was born with the condition Spina Bifida Credit: Family photo

Danika moved to the United Kingdom from Australia in 2012. That's when she met now-husband Matthew.

But five years ago, complications with her condition resulted in kidney failure. Danika needed a transplant and underwent surgery after her step-father offered his kidney, but the operation was not a success.

The following year, Danika and Matthew married.

Danika and Matthew married in 2015 Credit: Family photo

Matthew desperately wanted to be a donor for his wife, but doctors found that his kidneys weren't a suitable match.

After almost 18-months on dialysis at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, Danika found a donor.

The remarkable "gift of life" came from a close friend and Danika was scheduled for surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, last month.

I was blown away. It's the greatest act of kindness you can give. She's given me some of her life, so I can have some of my life back.

– Danika Cross
Husband Matthew was by Danika's side right until she was wheeled away for the operation Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

When my donor came forward we could finally plan. Before that, you can't. It's the constant not knowing...

– Danika Cross, prior to the transplant

Matthew said they're really looking forward to Danika having "more of a life" and they're now looking forward to holidays together.

Danika finished her University degree last year and can't wait to start a family. She says, "I just want enough energy to be a mum".

Her own mother Stephanie Fett flew all the way from Australia to celebrate Danika's recovery with her.

Danika and Matthew say they have a 'pretty normal life' now - and that's all they've ever wanted.

Danika's mum Stephanie Fett travelled from Oz to see her daughter Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The World Transplant Games will be hosted by Newcastle and Gateshead in August 2019.

The Games are to raise awareness of organ and tissue donation and to encourage transplant patients to regain their fitness. It's a huge celebration of medical success stories and the generosity and gratitude of donors and recipients.

We asked Danika what she thought of the World Transplant Games:

It's great to see the North East hosting an international event like this.

I'm glad it's highlighting the amazing medical professionals in the area and the inspiring people who compete.

– Danika Cross
We've featured many competitors from our region taking part in the Games Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

There are currently around 21 million people registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register which is around a 1/3 of the UK population.

Three people die each day waiting for a transplant but organ donation law is changing.

From Spring next year all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate.

More on this story