Real Lives: a kidney is a small price to pay, says wife
Gill Redmond donated a kidney to her husband Mark just six months ago, now they are doing the Etape Loch Ness to prove that life goes on after organ donation
My husband Mark first became aware of a kidney problem during a routine medical in 1995. He was in the Royal Air Force at the time, flying Nimrods out of RAF Kinloss, and was diagnosed with Berger’s Syndrome.
Although it did not affect him at the time, Mark experienced a drop in kidney function about seven years later and it became difficult for his kidneys to flush out toxins.
His condition gradually deteriorated to the point where he was told dialysis or a kidney transplant was his only chance of survival.
My daughters Neve and Katie-Anne and I started to notice a huge change in his health: he was constantly tired and listless and had no energy to enjoy activities with his family.
Doctors told Mark that a kidney from a sibling was his best chance of finding a match, but as an only child this was not an option. So, I asked doctors if I could be considered as a donor and it turned out I could be.
It was initially very hard for Mark. He did not want to have a kidney from me because he did not want to put me through any unnecessary suffering or put me at risk. It took him quite a while to get his head around the fact that I wanted to do it.
The doctors at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary – who I have to say, along with all the medical professionals we have encountered in the NHS, were absolutely outstanding – convinced him that there were no risks to me other than those normally associated with any kind of surgery.
As long as there are no underlying health issues which would result in extra strain being put on the body, one kidney is perfectly adequate. It is also generally felt that a transplant from a live donor has a better chance of success than from someone who is deceased.
This was a no-brainer for me. We encountered a problem and we needed a solution: I had the solution that could fix the problem
We were initially to undergo surgery in August, but another rapid deterioration in Mark’s condition led to the operation being brought forward several weeks. I went into theatre first – a period which Mark describes as being the worst three-and-a-half hours of his life – and he was wheeled in immediately afterwards.
We were both discharged a week later and within a couple of months were carrying out renovations on our home, knocking down walls and digging ditches.
Now, just six months on from surgery, we are starting 2017 by preparing to take on a new challenge: a 66-mile cycle around Loch Ness to raise awareness of organ donation.
We will take part in Etape Loch Ness – a closed-road cycle sportive around the iconic loch – on 23 April to show that life goes on for those who have had surgery.
To be honest, I’m more petrified about this than I ever was about the operation, but we are both determined to complete it to show that there is life after a transplant.
What this whole experience has taught us is that you only have one life. You have to crack on and pack as much into it as possible, and not waste any opportunity that comes along.
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for Mark to have considered doing this. He had been such a fit guy and all of a sudden he was lying on the sofa sleeping for hours a day – it was such as shock to see him like that.
It’s incredibly emotional for us to think that in a few months he will be cycling over 60 miles in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Transplants not only save lives, they change lives. If one person consents to organ donation when they pass away, they can benefit seven other people. That’s seven lives that can be completely transformed.
I hope that we can encourage people to talk about it with their families, and to take that step to register. You can do it in the time that it takes to boil the kettle to have a brew. That’s how easy it is to save a life.
Thousands of people are on waiting lists – some for as many as 10 years – waiting for the call to come that could save their life.
Anyone who would like to know more about organ donation can visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk to find out more.