Something you may or may not know is that I am a transplant patient. On 5th December 1995 everything changed for me. This week is Transplant Week and I hope you may consider organ donation.
This is My Story
I first became aware I had Kidney problems when I was 10 years old, and my Dad had take me to Hospital. My legs used to swell up very badly and I was put on some medication.
I grew up as a normal healthy teenager and enjoyed lots of sports and played Rugby, and had a passion for tennis. The medication stopped at 16 and I thought no more of it. What I did not know however was that my Dad was told I would have problems later in life.
A Normal Active Life
That later in life did not happen for another 11 years, at which time I was leading an active life up until I was 27. I noticed I was getting a lot of headaches and as I was quite ignorant to my health back then. I just popped some aspirin as and when the headaches came.
This continued for some time until December of 1994 when the headaches were getting quite severe. At first suggested by my grandmother was to get my eyes seen to, which I did. I was told they were fine and suggested I go to the local hospital. This was in Kingston West London. I remember I could not see very well and my vision seemed to get worse and it was very blurred. Eventually I was seen but they could not find anything wrong with me.
Thankfully my girlfriend at the time got a second opinion and eventually I had some tests. They took my blood pressure which was 220/120 which I was told was very dangerous. I was given some medicine for blood pressure and eventually the Doctor told me words, “you have chronic kidney failure.”
I just stood in silence and had no idea what was going on. He then explained to me that because of all the toxins in my body and blood pressure, I could have died within two weeks. This all happened on the 14th December 1994.
The Dialysis Machine
I was now in St Helier hospital and remember being in great pain as they inserted a tube through my neck into my chest, this was to be the access point for the Dialysis machine. I had my first Dialysis on my 27th Birthday (the 19th of December) and remember fondly the nurses on the ward buying me a little ice cream cake for my birthday.
Dialysis was quite a weird experience and a novelty to me as I watched my blood go around a machine for several hours. Eventually I was allowed home, which was now my girlfriend’s mum’s house in Walthamstow, as I had to give up work. My parents lived some miles away in Leicester.
Eventually I got transferred to The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel East London, and used to get picked up 3 times a week for dialysis for 5 hours at a time. I found dialysis hard and often suffered dizzy spells. I was also on a strict food and drink intake. There are so many foods you take for granted that you cannot eat when on dialysis. For example, my potatoes had to be boiled twice to remove potassium, which is a toxin that the kidneys were not removing.
A Tough Time
Dialysis continued for many months throughout 1995 and I even arranged to have dialysis at a hospital in Norfolk when my Nan died. By now it was late summer 1995 and I was becoming very depressed at losing my health and also losing my Nan, who I had become more close to during my illness. My parents lived in Leicester and did not help me at all when I split from my girlfriend, and that was the start of a long fall out with them.
Then in November of 1995, now living on my own in Leytonstone, I received a call from one of the Doctors at the hospital that I may have a chance for a transplant as a kidney. One had become available, but someone else was a better match. I then went into the hospital for various blood and tissue typing tests and then had dialysis. I remember the look on the Doctor’s face walking towards me. I knew he did not have good news for me.
Although I was not to have a transplant then, it was a real turning point for me as I was suffering very badly with depression and lost all zest for life.
Then something amazing happened.
I received another call just 3 weeks later, and there was a good chance I might get a kidney. They already had the tissue typing from a couple of weeks earlier so I stayed at home. Around 6 hours later I was told I was going to have a transplant. I was very excited but also nervous at the same time as I simply had no idea what to expect.
I remember the night before on the 4th Dec they gave me some medicine, which felt really strange, but after a while I got some sleep and was woken up in the morning. I had a bath and by now on the morning of my transplant I was very nervous and the nurses and hospital staff were a great comfort to me.
A while later I was laying on a bed being wheeled to the theatre and had silly ideas in my head that I would not wake up. It’s a very strange experience, but I guess a natural one. Then after 6 hours on the operating table, I was brought back around and remember being very grumpy and in pain, something I later apologised for.
I got back to the hospital ward with all kinds of things attached to me and the bed and was very sleepy. I shared the little bay with 2 other patients who all had family round them, I had nobody which was a very upsetting time for me as I could not understand why any of my family did not come to see me. My friend Katherine came to see me and many others sent messages which was lovely.
After a few days the tubes and machines were taken from me and I was allowed out of bed which I could not wait for and I went to the bathroom to see myself. I remember having the colour back in my face and started crying because I could clearly see I was better, it was a very emotional experience and one I will never forget, I had been given a gift, a gift of life. I was allowed out of hospital after 6 days and went home.
The Gift of Life
Apart from having a stent removed 3 months after the operation I have never to this day been back into hospital as an inpatient. My kidney transplant has now lasted nearly 21 years and is still going strong. I have competed in sporting events like the British Transplant Games winning medals for tennis and it truly has given me the gift of life.
I have never felt able to write this before as it was a very painful time for me personally in my life, but I hope by sharing my story with others it will help many decide to join the organ donation register.
If you would like to know more about organ donation, all the information can be found here: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/