At 17 years old, I couldn’t understand why all my friends could go out, drink loads and not feel ill. I only had to have a couple of pints and I would spend the whole evening being sick. I even tried going out and drinking coke. I was still sick. I was thirsty though and couldn’t drink enough.
I had no intention of going to the doctors, however, my mother had very different thoughts. Following a session of blood tests, I was told that I had blood cancer. Pretty shocking at 17.
More, and more tests were undertaken and I had the good news that I only had renal failure. My view of this was that I would take a couple of pills and be home and back to normal pretty quickly. It came as a bit of a shock that I then spent the next 3 months in hospital while they tried to “kick start” my kidneys. I had been left with one kidney that never grew and one kidney the size of a 5 year olds.
The first time I saw the dialysis unit, I thought “thank god I haven’t got to do that”, but I did and I don’t think I have ever felt so ill as the first time I dialysed. I came off the machine after about 5 hours – I was blind, being sick and had cramp and couldn’t walk.
I became pretty accustomed to the routine of going backwards and forwards to Oxford 3 times a week. Dealing with roadworks as they built the M40 and upgraded the A34. Waiting for a machine to become free before I could use it. 4 hours on the machine and then spend time cleaning it for the next person to use. I was pretty lucky really, I was young and I got used to dialysis. There were many older people than me who suffered each and every time they used the machine.
For someone who likes to eat well, the restrictive food was hard. No chocolate, all fruit and vegetables were soaked in water for 24 hours to take all their goodness away. The restriction of ½ pint of fluid a day, which included your gravy and sauce allowance was horrible. Food was dry, tasteless and before every meal you had an aniseed medicine that spoilt the taste of everything anyway.
I wasn’t going to give up though, I still went out with my friends, and the local pub would serve me a drink in a sherry glass, so I could have a small drink while everyone else had their pints. I carried a pager everywhere waiting for that call of a transplant.
Sometimes, friends and acquaintances, you would see every time you dialysed never came back, and you were told they had sadly passed. Those days seemed like you spent 10 hours on the machine instead of 4. I always said I would never complain. I was still here.
After 11 months on dialysis. I finally got the call. I had a transplant. My mum was in the shower, so I shouted up and told her I was going. I couldn’t wait for her to get ready. I drove myself to Oxford.
Its not always easy after a transplant, I do get ill from time to time, there has been bouts of rejection which I have managed to get through, I have suffered from cancer in the tonsils and if I get an infection, it affects me more than it would other people. I have to take a daily supply of drugs that suppress my immune system and keep my blood pressure regulated, but its worth it.
My transplant is 29 years old this year. I met my wife 6 months after my transplant and we got married 6 years later. We went on to have two lovely children Cameron who is now 18 and Abigail 15, along with numerous cats, and now dogs, along the way.
I can only thank the family that decided to donate their loved ones organs on a difficult day. The one thing that a transplant gives you is hope that you can have the same life as everyone else, because life goes on. Every day I see myself as being one of the lucky ones. I make sure that I live for today and look forward to the future.