“I started nursing aged 18 in 1978 and was diagnosed with congenital reflux on a routine medical, on entering to training.

As a child I had experienced health problems but my GP had never started investigations, I was born in 1960 so things have thankfully changed.

My right kidney was a lot smaller in size compared to my left but I was informed that I wouldn’t experience any problems during my lifetime.

Unfortunately, in 1983, aged 23 I started having frequent urinary tract infections (UTI’s) hypertension and generally feeling unwell. It was decided to perform a right nephrectomy in 1984 as the kidney was not functioning and my left kidney had been doing the job of two anyway.

I recovered well and continued nursing until in my mid 30’s (1990’s) once again I started experiencing frequent UTI’s and hypertension.

On further investigations, it was discovered my kidney function was deteriorating and I was referred to the renal team where I was monitored regularly over the next ten years or more. Unfortunately, I developed vasculitis aged 39, and then underwent many years of immunosuppressant therapy.
Luckily there was no kidney involvement. I was under the care of Addenbrookes in Cambridge with Professor David Jayne, who monitored both my vasculitis and my chronic renal failure.

I was very fortunate that my one kidney continued to function with a slow deterioration my estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was 25% until my 50’s when I had to take ill health retirement from nursing after 33 years. Looking back, I was unaware of how I’ll I looked.

Over the coming years I had regular infusions of Rituximab to control my vasculitis.

I was referred to the Low Clearance Clinic at Addenbrookes in 2017 as my kidney function dropped to 15% and I was told I would eventually need a kidney transplant.

My sister offered to be a donor and was a match. But unfortunately in 2019 she was unsuitable due to a medical condition. But my partner David was more of a suitable match. He began undergoing testing.

In 2019 I was admitted to hospital with flu, despite the vaccination and then a few months later with a severe UTI.

My kidney function dropped to 9% and I had to start dialysis treatment in September 2019 via a chest line for 6 months until I could have the donor transplant. I was advised not to go on to the deceased donor list as my medical history was complicated. Multiple allergies and vasculitis.

My transplant was planned and took place on Tuesday 10th March 2020 at Addenbrookes and we were the last living donor transplant to take place due to COVID-19 at the time.

I was told you feel fantastic after the transplant and I did. My friend Laura was allowed to visit me in recovery and couldn’t believe how well I looked.

David my donor unfortunately developed pneumonia a few days after surgery and I was the one walking round to see him. But we both appeared to be recovering well.

COVID-19 cases were rising and it was a scary time with everyone wearing masks etc.

My kidney was a little sleepy and I was informed I may have to undergo a biopsy if it didn’t improve. But I felt great. The best I had in years despite major surgery.

On day 4 after the kidney transplant, I just remember feeling very tired. Unfortunately, I went into haemorrhagic shock due to a massive bleed from my liver. This had never happened to anyone before and I was later told it may have been due to the long term use of steroids.

I woke up in the intensive care unit (ICU) 4 days later having been on a ventilator and undergoing 2 lifesaving surgeries to save my life and stop the bleeding. I had also developed atrial fibrillation, pneumonia and sepsis. They had put me on continuous dialysis to save my transplanted kidney. The teams at Addenbrookes certainly saved my life.

I then had to learn to walk again as I was so weak. I also underwent another surgery to repair an incisional hernia that had developed over my transplant site whilst in ICU. Approximately 11 days post-transplant.

David had been allowed home by now and could only visit once before the ICU went into lockdown, this was so hard in my ongoing recovery, I was also so worried about him and his recovery. I was transferred to the ward ten days later and David was allowed to visit only once. As by now the whole country was in lockdown.

I managed to walk with a frame on 30th March 2020 with assistance from the physiotherapist. I was so happy as it was a step nearer to going home.

My kidney who I had named Sidney continued to improve despite everything I had gone through.

I finally went home in a wheelchair on 2nd April 2020. Something I had feared at times may never happen. I was truly grateful for surviving.

My recovery over the coming months was hard and I was told it would be 18 months until I was where the team expected me to be.

I had 2 admissions due to sepsis and atrial fibrillation. A large collection of fluid had developed over the transplanted kidney but I improved once it was drained. I also had to undergo a cardiac ablation in June 2021.

My eGFR is between 33-36% I’m only on a low dose of prednisone and adoport. I now have 3 monthly follow ups at Addenbrookes and they are really pleased with my progress.

I cannot thank David my partner for giving me the gift of life and I often say “not all heroes wear capes.”

So on the 10th March 2022, I celebrate my 2nd kidney anniversary, along with David my amazing, selfless partner, who without his endless love and support I would not have come this far. 

It’s been harder than I could ever have imagined and with COVID even harder being clinically vulnerable. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! My health has improved so much and I cannot wait to be able to enjoy many more years of good health. We have so many plans to fulfil. My quality of life has improved beyond anything I could have expected. I have my life back.

Below is a photo comparison, the first photo is day one after my kidney transplant and the second photo is five months later in August 2020. The third photograph is my celebratory cake for my first kidney anniversary. Honoring David as my hero.