Susan's Story Written on 14th October 2021. Thirty-five years ago tonight, my life was so very different, and changed so dramatically. I was approaching my twenty fifth birthday with a very limited future. I did not know if I was going to live long enough to have the babies that I’d always yearned for. Times we’re very different back then, I had been on dialysis, for the last three and a half years, sleeping more than I was actually awake, and missing out on all the things that most young people do at that age. My kidneys had stopped functioning properly when I was twenty one, although I knew from an early age, after contracting rheumatic fever at the age of eight, and being in hospital for three months, they were probably never going to last. It was still a massive shock when out of the blue one day, I was told that I was going to need a fistula, to start dialysis. When I look back it was such a different world back then, there was no Internet or Google to search and get the information that, is so easily available today, I really did not know what to expect and was very scared. As terrifying as my very first dialysis session was, and feeling so ill, I knew that I had no choice, back then you were expected to prepare your whole treatment, including needling yourself, fortunately I’m not to squeamish, but it was definitely not for the faint hearted, there were plenty of near misses and blown veins, sending blood flying up the walls and ceiling. I also found that trying to have a social life, was near impossible, with my daily 800ml fluid allowance, but I definitely made the most of it. After three years of two visits per week, and ten hour days of dialysing in hospital, I was told that I could have a dialysis machine set up at home. This was even more terrifying, no professionals on hand to help, just me and my mum, who truth be told, was even more scared than me. A few weeks into dialysing at home, on a Tuesday evening around midnight we got a call from Guy’s Hospital, asking us to make our way up as quickly as possible. I look back now and realise how unprepared I was, I really did not have any idea, what was involved or what to expect, as I mentioned previously there was no Internet searches available, but I knew this was going to be my only chance of living a near normal life. If I’m being totally truthful, I wouldn’t allow myself to think about the donor or their family, and what they were going through, I was just so very scared and my emotions were so overwhelming, that I was unable to process the whole thing. In just under four weeks, I was back at home, I remember having more energy, than I can ever recall, but then the emotional wave hit me, and I really did find this extremely difficult to cope with, but I made a promise to myself, that I was going make the best of this wonderful gift that I had been given, and live my life to the full, this I do believe I have achieved. Since then, I have lived the most amazing life, very testing at times, but I think that I have learnt how strong, I am. I have had two amazing sons, now grown into men of 27 and 22, bringing these two into the world, I class as my greatest achievement. I have travelled to some amazing places, with my ever patient husband, he has been my rock, and supported me throughout, never allowing me the opportunity to feel sorry for myself, which has probably been the best thing for me, even though I’ve put him through some worrying situations along the way. I think that the cocktail of medication that I’ve taken for so many years, to keep my kidney functioning and to stop rejection, may have taken its toll on me internally, since my transplant I’ve had my appendix and gall bladder removed, a few dodgy smear tests and BCC’s, a perforated bowel, resulting in colostomy (now reversed) and a hernia and numerous urine infections. I now have atrial fibrillation which has been a nightmare, causing me to pass out at the most in the opportune moments, thus leading me to be on warfrin and the most difficult thing to control, at times I’ve felt very old, and unable to take long walks or climb hills. After a failed ablation, it was decided to fit me with a pacemaker, which has made such a difference. I contracted legionaries on holiday in Spain, another two weeks in Marbella Hospital. Returning home, some three months after, I realised that I was losing my hair, which was probably due to the legionnaires, but I’m now over this and back on track again. I feel that all of these experiences, have only gone towards helping me become stronger. My kidney is still going strong and is very happy, my mental health was a little shaky during the first lock-down of the Covid-19 pandemic, I did feel extremely vulnerable during this shielding period. This was something, that I hadn’t considered myself to be. I run my own little part time business from home as a beauty therapist, I love making people feel good about themselves. But as my 60 birthday approaches in a few weeks, I keep reminding myself of how lucky I’ve been. I have received the most wonderful care, from all of the Doctors, Consultants, Nurses, and Hospitals that I have attended over the years, they really have kept me alive and for that, I will always be eternally grateful, THANK YOU SO MUCH. Tonight is an emotional reminder of how much my kidney and I have achieved in the 35 years we’ve been together, and I truly hope that I have done my donors family proud. They gave me the most precious gift, that my family, and I will be forever grateful.