Patients from across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire have paid tribute to organ donors who have changed their lives for the better – with a message of thanks on World Kidney Day today (Thursday 11 March).
Five people who have all been under the care of the Stevenage-based Lister Hospital area renal team because of their kidney problems have reflected how having organ transplants has provided them with an “extra special gift” – the opportunity to live life how they want to.
Without a kidney transplant, those with kidney failure often experience constant tiredness, can’t pass urine normally and have a restricted diet.
They also have to spend 16 or more hours a week having dialysis – a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly.
The solution is kidney transplants – but there remains a chronic shortage of donors, something the NHS is seeking to address in the ‘Leave Them Certain’ campaign.
The campaign, launched last month, is encouraging everyone to make sure their relatives know of their organ donation wishes should they ever have to make that heart-breaking decision.
In the past 12 months, 16 life-saving transplants have been made possible thanks to donors from Lister Hospital.
But dialysis three times a week is the reality for many, with East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust providing this for patients at renal units across the area – including in Bedford, Harlow, Luton and St Albans, as well as Lister Hospital itself.
Iain Lowe from St Albans used to be among them, undergoing dialysis three times a week in his home city and being faced with rapidly deteriorating kidney function.
But in 2015 he got an early Christmas present – a call to say two suitable kidneys might become available.
Tests confirmed it was a good match, and Iain underwent a successful operation the very next day.
“I will be forever grateful to the family of the anonymous person whose kidneys they agreed to be donated and which have allowed me to benefit and live a normal life – free from dialysis sessions and a very restrictive liquid intake,” said the 71-year-old.
“I can now pursue an active life and, when COVID-19 restrictions ease, be able to travel again. Since my transplant I have become a great grand uncle twice, and a grand uncle for the fourth time. This might not have been possible without my transplanted kidneys.”
David Green was able to have his dialysis at his home in Welwyn Garden City after receiving training at Lister, and feels fortunate that he only had to wait a few months for a suitable match.
The 66-year-old received his transplant in 2017 – with the kidney donated by the family of a woman who sadly died in an accident.
“That’s all I know of the donor, but will forever be grateful to her and her family for this gift that changed my life,” said David.
Tarsem Paul from Bedford had dialysis three times a week at the unit in his home town for nearly 5 years before receiving his second transplant on Valentine’s Day last year.
Despite undergoing cataract surgery and having to shield because of COVID-19, the 67-year-old’s kidneys continue to work well.
Tarsem, who is now volunteering to support other kidney patients and has been helping newly-diagnosed sufferers to work through their issues, said: “I am so very grateful to my donor family who have given me the opportunity to live a life without the constant treadmill of dialysis.”
Anthony Heath from Dunstable had his dialysis at the Luton unit, while battling his way through a range of health problems.
The 71-year-old has had two transplants, the second in 2018, and said: “There are not enough words that I can say to thank the relatives of my two kidney donors.”
Marcia from Stevenage was diagnosed with kidney disease in the early 2000s and received a kidney transplant in 2012.
“My donor really gave me an extra special gift,” said the 63-year-old grandmother of four.
“As many know, a transplant is not a cure for kidney disease and the daily medication regime can take its toll. However, the freedom a transplant gives is so worth it.
“As well as continuing to work full time, I have been able to regularly visit my family in the USA and be part of the lives of my three other grandchildren who live closer to home – all born since I had my transplant.
“I will always be grateful to my donor and their family for all of this.”
All five are members of the Lister Area Kidney Patients Association, which is dedicated to improving the lives of kidney patients and their families served by the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. For more information about the charity, visit www.lakpa.org.
To register your organ donation decision go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk.