Christopher Wright shares with the NKF his kidney transplant journey... 

“It all started in my first year at Manchester University in the late 1970s. The initial symptoms were regular and continual nosebleeds, lasting for up to two hours at a time. Of course, I went to the Doctors straight after, however my blood pressure was normal (as I’d lost so much).

However, during the summer vacation, it all came to a head. I was doing typical vacation work, lifting stuff into and out of lorries, when one day I felt so ill I couldn’t get up and could just about crawl through the hall to the toilet.

I managed to phone my GP Surgery and I was diagnosed with Gastroenteritis. I knew it wasn’t Gastroenteritis as I had had that before. So, the next day I saw my regular GP. He took my blood pressure five, maybe six times. And wow did it hurt. Not surprising really as it was 200 over 150.

He gave me a scrip to go and immediately take some blood pressure pills and booked me into Lewisham Hospital for two weeks. After that it was straight from there to Guy’s Hospital for another week.

After the discharge came, I went to the follow up appointment and heard those unforgettable words, Kidney Failure, Five Years.

I went back to Manchester and visited the renal unit 3 times a year during the holidays.

All was well until the Christmas before my finals when I got a call telling me that I probably wouldn’t make my final exams. I told my University Tutor, who quite fortuitously was doing a project on the marketing of ideas and Kidney Donor Cards, an idea he had chosen.

Easter holidays then came and it looked like I was going to make it, but my body knew better! Two weeks later after the holidays I couldn’t walk across my bedroom for most of the day, but was just about strong enough to get to the University Doctor.

I explained the background to my Doctor and he went whiter than me! Obviously, he was used to hangovers and sports injuries, not someone going into renal failure in front of him!

I travelled down to London the next morning and went to Guy’s Hospital.

I came out two weeks later having had a fistula created, a catheter implanted, and a couple of sessions of dialysis under my belt.

The next 6 months was a matter of taking the train to Guy’s Hospital and sleeping much of the rest of the time. Until I had one particularly exhausting dialysis session and had an infection. I had to stop half way up the stairs to London Bridge station until one of the dialysis nurses passed by and helped me get the train.

Luckily at 1.30am that night, the 23rd September 1981, the ‘call’ came. My Mum came into my room white as a sheet to tell me there was a Doctor on the line. They offered me a kidney but I had to go straight up from Blackheath. Mum was too nervous to drive and so it was a mini cab dash.

Transplanted and back on the ward by 9.00am, I remember my Registrar (now an imminent Professor) looking at my charts, looking at me and simply saying “Get some clothes on by the end of the day!”

I didn’t, but I am grateful for his robustness as that is how I now treat myself. Over 41 years in and my kidney is still going strong.

I left hospital about 10 days post-transplant and gently ran up the stairs to London Bridge Station. It felt great.

In an attempt to get and stay fit, I starting swimming and represented Guy’s Hospital at the British Transplant Games for 5 years from 1982. I also was chosen to represent GB at 3 Transplant Olympics, Athens, Innsbruck and Amsterdam. To stay fit, I started cycling and ended up running a 500 member cycling club in South West London.

Getting a job wasn’t so easy. Late 1981 we were still in recession and I had to prove I could work. I applied for about 80 jobs, each in London as I had to be in reach of Guy’s Hospital and of course I needed an employer who understood that I had a few hospital appointments to attend. Eventually I found work at a steel importing firm.

Medically, things went ok, the kidney was working well, with only one incidence of rejection. 

After significantly enjoying my first few years post-transplant, I met my future wife, Catherine, in 1998. We married a year later and we now have two children, well, grownups actually. 

I carried on working and retired 3 years ago, just in time to have to self-isolate from COVID-19. Which I’m sure many of us did and continue to.

With the ‘grownups’ now having left, we have bought a seriously cute dog, a little Cavapoo, called Esme. I walk her regularly on Wimbledon Common and she always attracts humans and loves making friends with them, so progress is slow. But I love our walks.

Unfortunately, I have recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. A second kidney is proscribed with metastatic cancer so from now my “healthy” life expectancy is about 3 to 5 years.

However, I never in a million years expected to live so long, and so luckily, on just the one kidney transplant, and I can still have a lot of fun in 5 years!"

(Christopher pictured with his wife Catherine)