The first of my two kidney transplants
I was thinking and praying for the donor family, realising the shock and overwhelming grief they would be experiencing, trying to somehow deal with this traumatic loss of their precious loved one.
My renal career stretches back to mid-1989 in London where I was first diagnosed with chronic renal failure. It was a relief to finally find the reason for the headaches, the foggy brain, the getting up four to five times during the night and the slightly elevated blood pressure I was only 25 after all. I packed in as much travelling as I could before returning to NZ in 1990, where I started haemodialysis in the September of that year.
I had my first kidney transplant in December 1993. My beautiful sister Lee-Ann gave me a precious kidney, it was a near perfect match. However, I started experiencing some unusual and rare side effects from one of the anti-rejection drugs. The decision was made to take me off this drug and not long after I experienced rejection.
My sister's incredible gift never worked as well after this. I was devastated and flirted with depression for approximately six months. However, I realised the balancing act of the medications was a learning curve for all concerned. I cherished my sister's kidney for the seven years I was off dialysis, always acknowledging to this day the kidney birthday. I will never forget her sacrifice for me.
I started back on dialysis in August 2000. That year Lee-Ann's first born son Connor came five weeks early and arrived on my kidney birthday. He was the focus that year and I always remind him how special his birthday is, and what his Mum did for me.
After 12 years of dialysing myself at home, (10 of those years working full time), I was becoming a little dismayed and my normal positive attitude was being replaced with thoughts of "I'm so over this."
When Professor Rob Walker called at 11.30pm one night in July 2012 offering me a kidney, I was so incredibly overwhelmed I was not expecting this call. He suggested I have ten minutes to think about it and I accepted this so I could clear my head and gather my thoughts.
My sister, who had woken up and actually answered the phone call, quipped: "Oh well I'm off back to bed, let me know what you decide."
Of course I phoned Prof.Walker back with a resounding "Yes, I'll accept this truly incredible gift." His last words were a firm "Don't sleep in."
The next morning we all excitedly travelled to the airport to catch the 10am flight to Christchurch. At midday I was lying on my bed in Christchurch hospital. I had never seen so many people coming and going from my room. Drips were going up and anti-rejection medications were being administered.
At 2.30pm I was being rolled down to theatre for surgery, obviously with very mixed emotions. I was thinking and praying for the donor family, realising the shock and overwhelming grief they would be experiencing, trying to somehow deal with this traumatic loss of their precious loved one. The theatre staff were moved as well.
I really had to focus on the fact that something positive will come out of this incredibly sad tragedy. I was hoping that months down the track my beautiful gift of a new life would be a comfort to this grieving family. I could never begin to express my thanks and gratitude for the decisions made by all concerned.
My new kidney started working straight away. The blood tests that monitor kidney function were coming down day by day until I had totally normal kidney function after two weeks.
It was truly amazing, I started feeling so incredibly well. To date I have experienced no rejection episodes and have very stable kidney function. It's so wonderful not to feel guilty when I drink a large glass of water and to be free of the stringent daily fluid restriction which I found so hard.
Sometimes I need to pinch myself to believe the freedom I'm experiencing now. I've just come back from a month travelling around the South Island catching up with family and friends celebrating my new-found freedom. I'm so excited about my future and determined to make the most of each day.
We are fortunate to be under the care of such an excellent nephrology team in Dunedin. The same applies to the staff and management of the Dialysis Unit and Ward 7C. Also the expert transplant and nephrology teams in Christchurch Hospital and the staff of Ward 14, the care that I received was outstanding. It blew me away to think I was able to have a kidney transplant in Christchurch Hospital after the major earthquakes they had experienced. I am incredibly grateful to all concerned.
I'm blessed to have a supportive family and great friends, especially my wonderful Mother who has supported me through so much. I have a very strong faith in God, which I would never give up. I could never have come through this experience without my faith.
One of the many scriptures from the Bible that encouraged me so much, especially through the many tough times is from the Book of Isaiah Chapter 40v31:
But those who hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength
They will soar on wings like eagles
They will run and not grow weary
They will walk and not be faint.
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