In June 1999 I had a kidney removed due to polycystic kidneys and began haemodialysis. Both sisters offered me a kidney and a meeting was arranged with the Transplant Surgeon and the Co-ordinator. Information about the procedure was given honestly, making it clear that the donor underwent a more painful operation than the recipient and all the risks involved. Having discussed the benefits for me within the whole family it was decided to go ahead to see if Elizabeth was compatible.
Life on dialysis was limiting but I was lucky and kept well, managing to hold down a part time job as a teacher. My family were very supportive and took on many new roles than they had previously as I attended haemodialysis three times weekly.
When Elizabeth came up for the two days of pre-transplant tests I was swaying from being very positive and keen to being worried and upset. Elizabeth was planning to undergo major surgery for me with no benefit to herself, other than hopefully seeing me enjoy a normal life again. This was brought out in the open and she reassured me that she did not feel pressurised or obliged to go ahead.
When the results came through we were given a date for July and planning began in earnest. Children and pets had to be taken care of and it was important that arrangements were flexible.
I was admitted two days before the operation and underwent routine checks. Elizabeth was admitted the next day. I had my final dialysis that evening and returned to the unit to find both families and our dad there. It was a tense evening and after the visitors went away Elizabeth and I did a jigsaw in the dayroom till 12.30am; putting off the moment of going to bed and being left with our thoughts.
On the morning of the operation we were both up early, showered and Elizabeth went to the operating theatre about _ hour before me.
The next thing I knew was waking up and my husband being by my bed and it was all over. Elizabeth was opposite me in the High Dependency Unit and once we were both awake and had reassured each other we felt ‘great’ there was amazing relief and hilarity that the operation was behind us.
The next day I got up with the help of the physio and really felt great, but was concerned that Elizabeth was obviously in discomfort and sleeping a lot. The staff were fabulous and assured me that this was the normal pattern, the donor initially taking longer to recover. It took another 3 days for Elizabeth to return to her usual self and after that there was no stopping her.
I was also discharged after a week and initially attended hospital every few days for blood tests.
Life is so different for me!!
I have a new found energy, can eat a much larger variety of foods, can drink lots of fluids, have much more time to myself and really am a new person. All thanks go to my sister Elizabeth and the team of people in the Transplant Unit.