Sadness at life lost balanced by huge difference transplant makes to patients and families
DAVID Fletcher received the best birthday present this year – a kidney transplant at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
At 32 David, who lives in Tamworth, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition that causes multiple cysts to develop on the kidneys.
The kidney is normally the size of the palm of your hand and both his were the size of watermelons – with a combined weight of 8 kg.
In February 2011, David, aged 54, had an operation to remove both kidneys and was in his words 'utterly reliant on a dialysis machine', routinely having dialysis at home three times a week for four hours each session.
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David said: "I was told the waiting list is about three to four years but I was lucky and received a donation after 18 months.
"When we got the call, my eldest daughter took me to hospital and it all happened so quickly that my wife, who was out at the time of the call, missed the operation completely. We had arranged a family meal for my birthday that evening but that had to be put on the back burner!
"The loss of life of the person is of course very sad, but the donation has made a big difference to my life, and that of my wife who took time off work to help with my dialysis.
"What is classed as normal life like shopping, going to the pictures and family events and meals was restricted for us.
"This donation has helped another family, I'm a father and a grandfather, I'm going to carry on working and life has improved 100 per cent since the operation. Ironically I had never had an operation in my life and in the past year I have had two kidneys out, a hernia operation and a kidney transplant!"
Ten years ago Paul, from Tamworth, was diagnosed with kidney failure. Three times a week he travels to the renal unit at Samuel Johnson for dialysis. He's on the waiting list for a kidney at Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, one of the Midlands transplant centres but he doesn't know when the phone call may come with good news about a kidney being available.
His kidney problems are connected to his diabetes. The condition has also affected his sight, which has been completely lost in one eye.
In addition to the dialysis treatment, there are the many everyday restrictions like being limited to just one litre of fluid a day and avoiding high potassium food, like bananas, coffee, chocolate and tomatoes.
"You just have to get on with it," he said.
Another patient, David, is also from Tamworth. He was aged just seven when his kidney problem was diagnosed, after he was knocked down by a car and routine tests were carried out. Throughout his childhood he was unable to play sports, had lots of time off school and had to endure massive doses of drugs, including steroids.
However he has been one of the lucky ones. He's had two kidney transplants – one kidney lasted for 13 years and the next one 10 years.
"I had 23 years of normal life," he said. "So I know how lucky I've been.
"The transplant operation takes four to five hours and when you come round you feel instantly better. You can't believe the difference. All restrictions are lifted and you can eat and drink what you like."
But now he's back on dialysis. David has been a patient at Lichfield for four years and like others, travels there three times a week for treatment.