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Body and Soul - Videos and Transcript


Below is the Body and Soul program which has been divided up into two segments.  Under the videos is the transcript of the whole program.




CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Tonight, the unfolding saga of a young Sydney man and his ongoing round-the-world quest to donate a kidney to a complete stranger. As you may remember from last year, Ash Falkingham was already in hospital in Canada when his plans came unstuck because his parents claimed he was being coerced by a group called the Jesus Christians. On the eve of surgery for a second attempt, Falkingham's mother arrived suddenly at his bedside in Cyprus.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER (in Ashwyn's hospital room): We haven't come here to cause you any trouble.
ASHWYN FALKINGHAM (to mother): No worries, yeah, I did ask you not to come. Since you've come there's been trouble. This is the first time George is saying he might not go ahead with the operation ...

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: This is the curious case of a man and his mother and a woman who may die if she doesn't receive a new kidney.

SANDI SABLOFF: Well if you look at a time line this has been going on for a long time. We started this in August 2006. We are now in March 2008. I’d call that pretty committed, wouldn’t you? So Ash has been exceptionally committed. I'm feeling very excited and obviously I'm somewhat nervous, as anyone would be before any type of surgery. And I want it to happen, I want it to be over and be over successfully.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: You find people who would say that donating a kidney is crazy. But then again, you find a lot of people who will say that a lot of good things are crazy. They don’t see the point in risking something personally to help someone out when you don’t stand to gain anything, you know, materially from it. The reason that I'm not one of those people is that I feel that when we do things to help other people out, that we’re building not only character and life experience in ourselves, but I think that God sees it as well. At the moment I'm living in a bus. It can be a little less comfortable than living in a house but when you think about the conditions that most of the people in the world live in, then we’ve got it very easily. My mother doesn’t agree with what I am doing.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: When I look at the Ash I know now, I think he’s a great guy. I’m really proud of him. He cares about hunger and poverty and wonderful idealistic things like that, and I admire all of that in him. What does worry me about the kidney donation concept is that once you’ve made that commitment it seems to be a binding commitment to belong to the group. You’re very unlikely to leave the group, I feel, if you get to this point.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: Basically the Jesus Christians believe that what Jesus said, he meant. That we’re supposed to follow the things that he said in the gospel. When he said, woe to you who are rich, and blessed are you who are poor, that he meant that, you know, that we shouldn’t be just accumulating wealth for ourselves. In fact, part of the way that we try and live simply is getting a lot of our food from the discards from supermarkets and groceries.

DAVE MCKAY, JESUS CHRISTIANS, CO-FOUNDER: The primary concern we have with regard to money is that we not let it be the motive for things that we do. Definitely when people join our community they join the community to work for God. That’s fundamental to what the community is there for. Six or seven years ago something happened that has had a lot of repercussions as far as the community is concerned. I was on a plane from LA to Sydney and they had a movie called "A Gift of Love" and it was about a boy, a true story, about a boy who donated a kidney to his grandmother. Talking about how many people die for lack of kidneys. I was not even aware that you could do such a thing. Can I actually donate a kidney to help somebody? The idea of actually saving someone’s life, this is like the ultimate, you know, that I could actually save someone’s life was amazing. Even if it was only one, it was something I wanted to do. That’s what we Jesus Christians were all about is trying to help people. We’ve got about 30 members and I think it is up to about 19 now that have donated.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: Ash was interested in normal teenage things. He strove to be Christian in his thinking and in his living.

NICK CROFT, STEP-FATHER: He announced that he’d met these really nice Christian people and they were great guys and he’d been helping them distribute tracts and he thought they really knew how to live for God. But when he started telling me about some of their, some of the particulars of their belief system, I heard alarm bells ringing.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: I guess that the talk of giving kidneys was certainly one thing that seemed bizarre. I’d never heard of such a thing before, as being something you would associate with a particular group.

NICK CROFT, STEP-FATHER: I thought, I'll get on the net and see what I can find out about these people.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: And we would be shocked and we would be alarmed and we would be enraged at some of the things that we learned.

NICK CROFT, STEP-FATHER: And then there was a strange event in California I think, Dave receiving some whipping from a member. He did this as a kind of vicarious punishment for some incident that had occurred.

(Excerpt Fox News report showing Dave McKay being whipped):
DAVE MCKAY, JESUS CHRISTIANS, CO-FOUNDER: “What’s important is that a statement has been made and we feel very strongly about this.”
(End of Excerpt)

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: It is hard to believe that Ashwyn fell for this but here we are and he's doing it.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: After I joined the group, a couple of people in the group that I knew donated kidneys, and I saw this positive experience. They helped someone in a really positive way. They saw this person recover. I saw what good could be done. And I also saw that they weren’t really adversely affected by the operation. The point for me is being willing to offer a hand, even if it is going to cost me something, figuratively offer a hand, offer a kidney I suppose.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: I do feel that Ash has been pressured. I'm certain that the pressure to donate a kidney is one of the many pressures involved in being a member of this group. I would say it’s a cult. I would say it’s a sect. I would say it’s a madness.

DAVE MCKAY, JESUS CHRISTIANS, CO-FOUNDER: We’ve had to learn to live with that. You know we will always deny it. You know, anyone would. I mean who’s going to say, yeah well we’re a cult, because the word is a loaded word.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I don’t feel that I've been pressured into donating at all. Perhaps people might see me as young and naive and idealistic but I see it as a small thing. There are six-billion people on the planet, and helping one it’s just, I think it's just human nature. When I tried to donate a kidney in Australia, there was this legal sort of hurdle that I had to get over of forming a long-term friendship with my recipient, and so that’s why I am going to Canada, going overseas to donate. And the woman who I am planning to donate to at the moment in Canada, her brother has actually died of the same kidney disease that she has. She hasn’t been too concerned that it’s perhaps an unusual way of meeting a donor. Think it will be interesting to meet with Sandi for the first time. You know obviously I've sort of developed a friendship with her over the email.

SANDI SABLOFF: The hospital actually sent a letter indicating that this operation would take place on April the 30th and I was alternating between being a nervous wreck and being really thrilled and excited and happy and so on, and just sort of preparing for this. And Ash was laid back, as usual.

NICK CROFT, STEP-FATHER: We decided to get in touch with the Ministry of Health in Ontario to see if we could stop this organ transplant happening. The general thrust of it was that Ashwyn was with a person calling himself a friend, who in fact was a manipulative cult leader, who was coercing his members into donating kidneys.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: But after clearing Falkingham both medically and psychologically, Toronto General Hospital cancelled the surgery… Toronto General Hospital has never commented publicly on its reasons for cancelling the transplant. But there’s little doubt that the concerns raised by Ash Falkingham’s mother played a key role.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I felt disappointed and a little angry.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: Particularly because it was because of your parents?

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: Exactly. Yeah I just really hope that in time they’ll learn that my choices aren’t their choices any more, you know. I am an adult and I should be able to make my own decisions.

SANDI SABLOFF: I was completely devastated. I have still not recovered and I'm not exaggerating. In fact I feel like my health deteriorated after that because of all the anxiety and the stress that all that put me through.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: They firmly believe that it was down to me, the cancellation in Toronto and that does really disappoint me because I know that that was not the case. The hospital themselves cancelled that situation because there was a possibility of inappropriate publicity being obtained for a third party.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: We’re not a cult who tells people to donate kidneys. We’re a group and we place our faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ. And he said you know the whole Bible is summed up to love your neighbour and love God. That’s the root of it.

SANDI SABLOFF: I don’t think about that aspect at all. Ash is a individual in his own right. And he has decided out of faith and belief that this is something he wants to do, and so he wants to donate a kidney.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: After months of email exchanges, medical tests, travel across the world, Sandi Sabloff was still without a new kidney. Ash Falkingham was still determined to help her so she set out to find a willing surgeon. That search ended last week at this hospital in Cyprus.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: I think this type of donation, a good Samaritan type of donation from an unknown donor, I think it is a blessing and I have no problem in accepting it. We have to make sure that the donor gives in an altruistic fashion. In other words he is not coerced into giving a kidney to somebody else. We just want to make sure that there is no money involved. So we were comfortable to proceed and do the transplant.
SANDI SABLOFF: I have been on dialysis and organ donation is something that actually can save lives, particularly a living donor because that is the best type of transplant you can get. You’ve got to remember this is a family disease so they could not donate. And as we’ve just found out today actually, Ash and I are apparently an excellent match, like a very, very good match. So that was very exciting news. We didn’t know that, that it was that good.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: Histo-compatibility was excellent. It was better than what you expect from mother to a son or a son to a mother, you know.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: It’s been about two years since this whole process started and yeah it’s very exciting to see everything starting to fall into place. I would definitely say that although Sandi was a stranger when we first started this process, that she’s a friend now. It’s made it much more real for me and whereas before it was sort of more a theoretical thing. You know it's just something that would be nice to do. It’s a way that I can help someone. That’s still there to a point but it’s also now it’s a personal thing. I really want to see this work out for Sandi.

SANDI SABLOFF: I would say we started off really not knowing each other at all quite frankly. Through conversations and through emails and then Ash was in Toronto of course for several months, so we got to know him very, very well. And as I approach surgery I think about how lucky I am to have a donor like Ash. I feel that he’s an incredible person. I feel really good about Ash and very close to Ash.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: Understandably I was suspicious of my mother’s intentions after what happened in Toronto and I asked her this time if she would not come because I don’t want this to be called off for some frivolous reason. I don’t want the extra stress it is going to cause to have someone who is clearly against me donating, turn up. Now I don’t know if she is going to respect my wishes.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: But not only does Falkingham’s mother Kate Croft show up at the hospital in Cyprus on the day of the surgery, she’s been invited there by the transplant surgeon, Dr Kyriakides.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: When I found out that the mother was negative about it and she didn’t want him to donate, I said well I cannot do it unless I talk to the mother. And I called her in Australia and we had a chat on the telephone.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: Falkingham is livid at the news of his mother’s arrival. The surgery is supposed to happen in a few hours. Sabloff sees her second shot at this kidney evaporating. She makes her way to Ash’s room.

SANDI SABLOFF: At this last minute the stress and the incredularity were just amazing. How do you bring somebody to Cyprus, tell them they’re going to do this when they full well knew the facts beforehand and then have somebody come in here and kind of do a number on his head, and all of a sudden, well, we’re not quite sure if we’re going to do this?

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I was very disturbed to hear what he said about that he was thinking of cancelling it even or postponing it if I didn’t speak to her. Yeah I would have thought that he would have a bit more respect for the patient’s wishes. I mean he’s a wonderful surgeon but I don’t think he handled that well at all.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: If the parents stood here and started screaming against the operation then my position would be to cancel the operation I guess, because I mean it wouldn’t be very humane on my part to ignore the parents and let them scream and yell and go ahead with the operation.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER (to Ashwyn in hospital room): I only want a few minutes of your time. I just want to tell you what I already said in messages, that we really do support you and we love you very much and we’re proud of you for doing this, okay? We haven’t come here to cause you any trouble. We’ve come as far as you have to show you that we do support you.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM (to mother): All right, well I mean, you know what was the idea of asking you not to come for, and since you've come there's been trouble. This is the first time George is saying he might not go ahead with the operation and so I mean, if it’s not coming from you then maybe you can try and convince him because I don't know what...

KATE CROFT, MOTHER (to Ashwyn): I'm not influencing you or him, boy, I just want to give you a hug, please, and a kiss.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM (to mother): I don’t know why you came, I don’t know why you came without letting me know, I don’t know why you came without answering my requests not to.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: I came because I wanted to give Ashwyn my blessing, and I'm proud of Ashwyn and I love him and it’s really great for me to be able to see him and just to try and share with him my support.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: They were very upset in Canada and they didn't want him to donate. But now they realise that if they kept that attitude, they would lose their son completely you know, so I suspect this is the reason why they changed their mind and they decided to accept that and be very supportive as well.

SANDI SABLOFF: Finally my understanding was that Kate was very positive and that was such a relief and it was so wonderful. And hopefully Ash will get a chance to reconnect with her and have a better relationship with her.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: The reunion, no matter how awkward, and the parents' change of heart, is enough for the doctors. The surgery goes ahead.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I felt really sort of at peace going into the whole process and there was a big element of the unknown with the donation that I hadn’t even had any sort of major surgery before that. Sometimes new experiences can lead to fear but that’s not what I felt with this. It was something that I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time. I couldn’t imagine a situation where I could feel more at peace or more comfortable.

SANDI SABLOFF: We were playing gin rummy and I was playing solitaire, I was playing bridge on the computer, I was reading, I was doing Sudoko. You know it’s sort of senseless stuff and it occupies my mind and that’s good. It’s a very, very good distraction, so it keeps the nerve level down.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: First doctors remove Falkingham’s kidney. Then it’s transplanted to Sandi Sabloff.

SANDI SABLOFF: Well I'm certainly very excited and very nervous because it’s still surgery. There’s always a risk involved in surgery so that goes through my mind a lot. But I know that they’re very experienced here and they have some of the best results in the world actually. I mean it’s wonderful that I'm getting a wonderful new kidney. That will change my life completely. It is not a cure but it certainly gives you a quality of life as if it were a cure and there’s no way to say thank you.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: Everything goes without a hitch. Sabloff will need anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life but her days on dialysis are over.

DR GEORGE KYRIAKIDES, PARASKEVAIDION HOSPITAL: I feel very well, very satisfied. Both patients did extremely well during surgery. It was a successful operation for both of them.

(On screen text: "the next day")
ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I’m feeling much better than I expected. Yeah it was a bit of a rough sleep last night but I got some pain killers. Feeling great. I've had my first two little walks down the corridor. And they say the earlier you get up and about the quicker it heals. I’m just really happy to see that Sandi is getting better and it’s really encouraging to see that, sort of the feeling that you’ve done something to help someone out. I feel really stoked. It seems to be working brilliantly, the kidney.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: Well I'm very pleased for Ashwyn. I know how much it meant for him. I’m also very pleased for Sandi and Jane. I know how much it means for them. I’m also quite sad because I imagine that, although Ash was allowing me to see him yesterday, I don’t know when I’ll be able to again.

MAUREEN TAYLOR, ‘THE NATIONAL’, CBC CANADA: Falkingham won’t see his mother and stepfather after the surgery. Kate croft will leave the Easter eggs she’s brought for him and Sandi with the receptionist.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: What has happened here is very right for everyone involved. And I can only say I'm proud of Ashwyn and he has my full support, and I hope that he will one day care to have that, to accept that.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: In the few days after the operation I didn’t want Kate to come in and visit me. I didn’t want an extra bit of stress. I was just a bit disappointed that Kate had come over there against my wishes. I felt that if she was really there to support me she wouldn’t have flown over. She would have said, look, okay, I support you in what you’re doing and I will support your wish for me not to come over, and you’re my son, I love you.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: I thought if there’s an opportunity to go and talk to Ash and tell him, hey, I never was against you doing this and now I want you to know I support you, I've talked to the doctor and I'm so grateful to be included, and I just want to see you, and see you beforehand, see you afterwards, and assure you that I love you and support you in this.

ASHWYN FALKINGHAM: I’m feeling great. It’s been a couple of weeks I've been in London now and I've just been travelling around with the community here. I'm not supposed to lift anything over five kilograms for a few months but as far as getting up and walking around, I can even laugh again. I can sneeze and I can cough with no pain. So I’d say that I am quite well recovered obviously. The relationship between Kate and myself and Nick as well is on the mend. She’s apologised for a number of things that she said and attitudes that she’s taken and I take that as a very positive sign. It’s just a process of rebuilding that trust that was broken. I’d love to see the trust rebuilt. It’s just a matter of taking steps to do so.

KATE CROFT, MOTHER: Now that I'm back in Australia, things are definitely improving, I feel. I've encouraged him too to try and make a fresh start this year, and obviously he didn’t feel he could do that until he had the donation safely behind him. And I just want to see that sorted out and put right so that we can both move on with our lives, as a family and as friends.


END CAPTION:
Ashwyn Falkingham was due to arrive back in Australia yesterday.

He intends to do volunteer work for a charity that restores second hand bicycles for developing countries.
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