Rehana chats to the National Kidney Federation to speak about her kidney journey:

"As a fellow kidney transplant patient, I am an ambassador for the NHS Bradford Teaching Hospital, which enables me to share my journey with others and speak to patients on dialysis that are maybe facing obstacles within their life due to their current situation.

I really enjoy visiting the patients as I, myself, have been in the darkness and came out to see the light. Not only do I speak to patients on dialysis, but I also speak to healthcare professionals, newly diagnosed patients and patients who are waiting to join the transplant list.

I was diagnosed with a kidney condition at the age of 17 with Glomerulonephritis disease. I was inherited with kidney disease after my dad, the condition means I had regular kidney infections.

Based in Bradford, I initially had letters sent to me to see a renal specialist and following on from this, I had a biopsy to check the health issues that I was having. They came to the realisation that my kidneys were quite shrunken and this may be the reason why I had so many frequent kidney and urine infections.

The next step was to have a meeting with my renal social worker to discuss treatment options, due to being at such a very young age, my mum helped me massively through the process.  

I then began haemodialysis treatment at the hospital in my 40s, it was a very tough time.

The first day of treatment was emotional, I was put onto the dialysis machine at the hospital and this was a consistent theme within my life during this period, 3 times a week, 4 hours each time. It was a lot for a mother of two who didn’t know what to expect, I really didn’t like dialysis at all.

Social events weren’t better, as they became limited due to the amount of time I was spending on dialysis and attending hospital appointments, my face and stomach was swollen and I had a lot of fluid on my stomach due to fluid retention. Dialysis tires and drains you and it wasn’t something I had a great experience with.

During my time on dialysis I was put onto the transplant waiting list and I was always told to answer my mobile phone by my renal doctors, even if it was a private phone call.

And then, on the 19th October 2013, a private number called me.

Just after midnight, St James Hospital based in Leeds told me that they had a kidney waiting.

This was 9 months after my haemodialysis treatment began.

I had my bag packed all ready and waiting for that one phone call, the doctor asked me if I had any infections which I didn’t, and then I was told to come into the hospital within the next hour.

I rang my mum to let her know I was on my way to hospital and my transplant journey began.

I reached the hospital and was then told to have a few tests, I felt quite nervous but at the same time happy.

I scanned around the room that I was placed in and saw a box with ‘Kidney Organ Donor’ written on the side – the nurses said to me “this is your kidney”.

I just looked and got quite tearful as it was explained to me that a young white girl died in a car accident and was the same blood group as me - even though I’m from a different origin background – I’m from an Asian background.

I was then told to fill in a consent form to proceed with the transplant, the doctors explained the procedure that was going to take place, and then I was told that I would be called into theatre shortly.

The next thing I remember was being sedated with morphine. After waking up from my operation my first question was “is my kidney working?”

I was first told by the nurses to drink water, this wasn’t exactly easy as I had to adapt to this as it’s a struggle when you have gotten used to taking only 2 litres of water a day.

It takes time for the kidneys to begin working as initially after post-transplant the kidney will be “sleeping” and I had to drink water to wake it up.

I spent in total around 7-8 days in hospital, every few hours having checks and then suddenly my kidney started working.

The shower was really hard as right below the stomach it was quite painful and was hard to get used to, however the exciting part was that my kidney function was 54% per cent – which is really good for a deceased kidney and a healthy kidney is 80/90 per cent on a regular basis.

My kidney was working really well and I was put onto 30-40 tablets a day to keep it in check, this consisted of immunosuppressants and steroids to stop my kidney from going into rejection.

When I was finally able to go home I had to shield in my room to help me recover and to stop me from getting any nasty infections. The support I had from my family at this time was amazing, as it was so hard to move around the house, so they helped a lot.

After the operation I did get anxiety and depression as I couldn’t accept this kidney was mine – my mind was on the girl who had an accident and that I had been given a second chance of life. I did go to counselling and I couldn’t accept it – however it did take time.

I had 2 – 3 checks a week with a renal consultant to see how my kidney was functioning, and I began to start building up energy, my scars were healing and I felt healthy in general after 2 weeks from my operation.

I was then discharged from Leeds and went to Bradford for ease of travel, everything was going very well and my medication was reduced slowly.

I was advised to be off work for a year, I found this quite hard to accept as I have been working as a Retail Assistant and a Union Representative for Tesco for around 15 years. I really love my job and I am passionate about what I do. Day to day duties involve me supporting my colleagues, encouraging people to join the union, and ensuring my colleagues are protected at work.

However I remember getting better in myself on dialysis, my eyes were yellow before – now when I looked at myself in the mirror I appeared to be glowing – my health and skin colour look great! I was feeling really well within myself and started feeling better after 6 months of my operation.

I then went to work with a support plan with gradual hours this was great to build up my confidence and social life again.

I then booked my first holiday.

After transplant still up to now I have regular checks ups and 2 tablets a day which are immunosuppressant’s for my kidney and I have come off anxiety and depression tablets.

After counselling and being back at work and feeling more positive about life, I see my kidney as a special gift – I pray at my local mosque every year and I celebrate with my renal consultant and team by taking a delicious birthday cake into the hospital.

To continue spreading further awareness, I recently featured in the Telegraph explaining the importance of organ donation in BAME communities which can be viewed here.

Having a transplant isn’t a cure but it’s a better life change.

My advice to other patients out there would be to attend seminars, meet up with people and go to the charity events that take place and know what to expect. Your renal social worker is also there for support, so if you ever needed any help that would be a starting point, or the National Kidney Federation helpline advisors and their website.

I continue to carry on raising more awareness about organ transplant in the BAME community as not many people are coming forward with their organs due to the stigma of it.  As an Asian woman I want to raise as much awareness as possible on how important it is to be on the organ donor register.

It's now been 8 years since my transplant, and I’m going strong and I hope I continue to go strong!"