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The Story by Elizabeth

When my sister Joyce was told she had kidney failure I cannot remember actually making the decision about asking to be considered as a donor. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. My husband and children were completely supportive. I think that this is vital to the whole process, because it inevitably involves you all.

My younger sister was also keen to be considered, so we told Joyce, and a meeting was arranged with the Transplant Surgeon and Transplant Co-ordinator.

One of my main impressions of this time was that much of the information given seemed to be pointing towards the more negative aspects of what might happen despite the superb success rates. This was to ensure that the donor was as clear as possible about what was involved and that the offer was made with no pressure from any quarter.

When it became clear that I was compatible and my general health was good, a two-day admission to hospital was arranged for a series of more specific tests. This was my first visit to hospital, excluding the birth of our children, but any apprehension was soon dispelled by the supportive attitude of all staff. The tests consisted of blood tests, blood pressure, a chest x-ray, an ultrasound scan and a renal angiogram. I actually quite enjoyed the experience!

This was also a very important point in the whole process. It was during this time that I realized how complex Joyce's feelings were about what was happening to us all. It was a very emotional time for her. As far as she was concerned, it was because of her that I was in hospital ­ despite the fact that the tests themselves were straightforward and far from dreadful. It highlights the fact that this is something the recipient cannot repay and how difficult it can be to accept this. Personally, I think it is probably easier to be a donor. The good part of this was that it provided an opportunity to reaffirm our feelings and remain very positive about continuing.

Much to our delight the results showed that my general health was good and I had two well-functioning kidneys. Reality strikes! Dates were put into place and arrangements made. As a teacher I am fortunate to have a long break in the summer and it was arranged that this was when the operations would take place. This was at our request and another example of how well we were looked after.

The day before the transplant was scheduled, I was admitted into the Transplant Unit. Unit is an excellent description of the place. Every person without exception works as part of the team to provide a service second to none. The atmosphere is so positive and caring that it helps to dispel the inevitable apprehensions.

The night before the transplant was most peculiar. It is very comforting to be in hospital with someone you know so well and this helped me in many ways. Our families visited and it was a time of mixed emotions. Everyone is affected by what is happening. It is not just the donor and recipient. When Joyce and I did eventually go to bed it was with hope and expectation.

Early the next morning I was prepared to go to theatre first and Joyce soon after. The operations take place in a specially designed twin theatre

The faces I saw on the ward, on the way to theatre and in the anaesthetic room were familiar. All had introduced themselves previously, which is so helpful when the surroundings are unfamiliar.

The operations are carefully planned with Consultant Transplant Surgeons leading the two teams. After the kidney is removed it is transferred to the adjoining theatre to be transplanted.

The faces I saw on the ward, on the way to theatre and in the anaesthetic room were familiar. All had introduced themselves previously, which is so helpful when the surroundings are unfamiliar.

The operations are carefully planned with Consultant Transplant Surgeons leading the two teams. After the kidney is removed it is transferred to the adjoining theatre to be transplanted.

When I woke up on the High Dependency Ward Joyce was opposite and we seemed to come round about the same time. We both reassured each other that all was well. What a wonderful feeling! Everyone on the ward helped to make sure that everything was done to make us as comfortable as possible. When our families visited later in the day there was so much joy and laughter. Now we had to hope that the kidney would do its job and make Joyce feel better that she had been in a long time.

The next few days were filled with a variety of checks such as blood tests, urine counts and fluid intake. The physiotherapist was on hand to make sure mobility returned as quickly as possible. My recovery was made so much easier by the signs that the kidney was doing its job. Joyce was feeling good! I will never forget her euphoria on the morning of the second day when she noticed that the whites of her eyes were no longer yellow, but clear white ­ a very positive sign.

Things continued to go well and after a week in the unit I was allowed home. A follow-up six weeks after the operation ensures that blood and urine tests have returned to normal. It is also made very clear that if anything crops up at home which causes concern there is always someone available at the transplant unit to answer questions and provide support.

Being a kidney donor is a unique experience that not everyone who wishes to has the opportunity to take. I was fortunate to be able to do this and would encourage others to do so as well. Personally I feel richer as a result of the whole experience and through meeting so many special people.


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This page last modified 04.11.2009 10:13 by Emma Farrell. edren and edrep are produced by the Renal Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh. CAUTIONS and Contact us.