I was unwell from a very young age and was finally diagnosed with kidney failure when I was just eight years old. I had surgery shortly after that and it was considered to be a success. It wasn’t until I failed a medical for the RAF, when I left school, that it was discovered the renal failure had returned and I was now in the end stages of the disease and required dialysis.
My health continued to deteriorate and, after a bout of food poisoning, my kidneys were finally damaged beyond repair. I started dialysis in 1996 and had my first transplant in 2003 which failed immediately. I went back on to dialysis and tried to get on with my life. I got married and we had a son. I then had my second transplant in 2010 which, again, was unsuccessful and resulted in me spending six months in hospital.
Life continued with regular dialysis as before. Unless you have experienced it it’s difficult to explain quite how tough it is to live like this. It was during my dialysis treatment at hospital that my renal social worker recommended I apply for a Willow Special Day. She gave me the application form and I began to think about what I could do. I finally decided that I would love to have some professionally shot photos of my son and I as a lasting memory for him should the worst happen. Willow arranged for us to have a photo shoot together – it was great fun and so difficult to choose the ones to keep as there were so many brilliant photos taken.
After my day my doctors made the decision that after two failed transplants and chronically low blood pressure, my last chance of a transplant would be from a living donor. My brother was tested to see if he could donate and we were so lucky that he was a match.
In 2012 I finally had a successful transplant. When I went into hospital for my transplant I kept the photo from my Special Day by my bedside. Keeping the photo beside me was all the motivation I needed to get out of intensive care and to recover for my son. As my previous transplants were so horrific I wanted something I could treasure forever and that could be handed to my son as a lasting memory should, the worst happen. Some people thought I was mad for thinking like that and others thought I was mad for having another transplant, but my son was my inspiration and he was there with me in the photo throughout it all.
The transplant transformed my life. I no longer require dialysis, something I’d lived with for so many years. And it was the first time in 20 years that I had any energy. My health hasn’t been without problems since the transplant with another major operation and hospital stay but, once again, my photo was with me the whole time, and will stay with me and my son forever.
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