Life Stories

Denise's Gift of Life

When I was 28 weeks pregnant with my (soon to be 11-year-old) daughter, Georgina, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Chronic Kidney Distorder.  It was a total shock; I'd put my tiredness down to being pregnant and working full time.  Both my and Georgina's health were in trouble, but our main aim was to keep the baby inside as long as possible; every extra day was a bonus!  The team at Doncaster & Sheffield were amazing.

Luckily, beds were found for us close by at Sheffield as we both needed intensive care after the birth.  We were warned that the baby had a 50/50 chance of surviving the birth and not to worry if baby doesn't cry.  Georgina arrived at 32 weeks by C-section, kicking and screaming, on 5th January 2006.  She was whisked away into Neonatal Intensive Care as she was really poorly; unable to breathe independently and with kidney problems; she was fed by a tube.  I was too poorly to see her until the following day - but luckily my kidneys held their own at 20% function for the next 15 months. 

I went on to peritoneal dialysis four times a day exchanging the bags at home (not an easy task with a baby!).  The team at Doncaster was amazing and got Georgina involved in helping get my treatment bags ready. 

After a few months I did overnight peritoneal dialysis which involved me being attached to a machine for 12 hours every night, but it meant that my days were free.  My husband, Chris, was awesome, putting up with all the noises that the machine made and the extra work that dialysis involves.  Our relationship changed dramatically.  Chris ended up doing a lot of caring for me - doing things that no husband should have to do - and I will always be grateful to him for putting up with me. 

I continued on APD until I got a particularly severe bout of peritonitis which nearly killed me.  Due to the severity of the infection I was unable to continue with APD so went on to haemodialysis three times a week; each session took four hours.  HD was a very hard struggle for me - I found the treatment very restricting and tiring.  My energy levels faded and I had very little appetite; I just felt nauseous all the time. I felt as though I wasn't being a proper Mum to Georgina as I had so little energy.  My skin colour changed to a 'renal brown/yellow' colour and my hair started to fall out. 

I would not have been able to survive without the help of my amazing family and friends. 

CKD is a terrible disease which very few people understand.  They think that dialysis solves everything but the truth is it is a very gruelling treatment.  I did try to stay positive which I think is half of the battle.  I came home after my last dialysis session and I remember saying to myself that I don't think I can do this much longer as I felt so terrible. 

On 25th January 2011, after three years on the waiting list, I got 'the call' at 12.10 am.  I was to be at the hospital for 7 am.  The donor's life support would be turned off at 7.30 am. 

I had been waiting and hoping for this call for so long and now it was here - did I really want this?  I felt guilty because a family were making the hardest, bravest decision of their lives, giving permission for their loved one’s organs to be used.  I was scared of leaving Chris and Georgina if the operation went wrong.  I was excited for the future if all went well.  Lots of emotions in such a short time. 

We saw the kidney arrive by ambulance car at the hospital; it was very surreal.  After a very long day of tests and a dialysis session, I was declared fit and the kidney was declared healthy by my surgeon, Mr Nathan at Sheffield Northern General Hospital.  The kidney was placed on my bed and I held the bag that contained the kidney as I was wheeled down to theatre!

The operation was a success in terms of the kidney being 'plumbed in' but I was really ill as the kidney was 'asleep'.  Sometimes, if the kidney is on ice for a long time, this can happen.  I had dialysis for the next three weeks.

I was called in to have a biopsy on the transplant with a view to having it removed if the organ had been rejected.  That morning the kidney 'woke up' and I was so excited to have a pee for the first time in nearly four years!  No biopsy required and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Life with my transplant has not been easy; many other health problems have arisen and my numerous medicines have had to change several times; my kidney function is around 30%.

This aside, life is brilliant now.  I have loads more energy, my appetite has returned along with my zest for life and I now work 20 hours a week.  Most important of all, I can take part in 'normal' family life and be a proper mum to Georgina.  We have lots of family time going for walks, going on holiday, watching school plays, watching Georgina grow up - simple things that people sometimes take for granted. 

I'm now living each and every day to the full and cannot thank my donor and his family enough for the gift that no money can buy - life.

Denise Holliday