Boy's dad is saved by his best friend's mum

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Katy Ludlow and Ravi Nihal

A father of three has received a life-saving transplant thanks to the mother of his young son’s best friend.

Ravi Nihal, 43, was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure in 2015 and was put on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. While he waited he needed to have dialysis, an artificial way of removing toxins from the blood which kidneys would usually flush out, three times a week.

He said: “When I first found out about my health problems I was very depressed and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. After years on the waiting list no suitable organs had been found.

“I had to give up the job I’d had for more than 20 years and it was a nightmare for my kids because, even though I used to try to hide it, they could see I was in pain and I wasn’t able to do the things I used to do with them such as swimming or going to the park or cinema. I felt tired and ill all the time and had trouble sleeping.”

Ravi, from Gravesend in Kent, was amazed when Katy Ludlow, a woman he hardly knew, offered to donate her kidney to him last year. Her son Tobias and Ravi’s son Jay were best friends and both attended Cecil Road Primary School in Gravesend. Thanks to the seven-year-old boys’ close friendship, Katy got to know Ravi’s wife Ish while doing the school run.

Katy, 34 from Northfleet in Kent, said: “One day Ish was upset and told me about Ravi’s illness and her worries for their future. I felt very sorry for the family – they were in limbo until Ravi could have a transplant. It was horrible to think about what they were going through.

“Ravi didn’t usually do the school run but the odd time I saw him it was clear he was deteriorating – he had lost weight and looked unwell.”

Katy, a mother of three who runs a cleaning company, contacted the team at Guy’s Hospital, where Ravi was a patient, and asked to be tested to find out if she was a match. After numerous tests it was found that she was a suitable donor and she was keen to go ahead.

Ravi, a former supervisor for National Grid UK, recalled: “I was gobsmacked – I couldn’t believe that someone I didn’t know well would do that for me.”

The pair had surgery on the same day in December at Guy’s Hospital. Ravi said: “When I woke up the first thing I asked was how Katy was. Within a couple of weeks I was feeling a lot better and now my kidney is working well, I’m a healthy colour and I’ve gained weight. I’m hoping to go back to work soon and plan a family holiday.

“Without Katy I couldn’t see a future in sight. She has done something most people I’ve known all my life wouldn’t have done. I’ll be forever grateful to her.”

Katy said: “Everyone I’ve told about the transplant has asked me why I’d donate my kidney but I think, why not? Ravi could have been on the transplant list for many years and I feel fantastic knowing that I’ve saved his family from that. It’s brilliant seeing the change in him since the transplant. He looks amazing, has a new lease of life and is smiling again.

“Ravi is usually a quiet man but he has opened up to me and we’ve become good friends. Our families are like one big family now and we are closer than ever. I know if I ever needed anything Ravi would be there for me in a heartbeat. Tobias is proud of what I’ve done and tells everyone about it.

“I feel fine and no different now that I only have one kidney. I didn’t realise how many people are on the waiting list for a kidney and that most people who could donate choose not to. I have no regrets about donating – I’d do it all over again.”

Nizam Mamode, consultant transplant surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “What Katy has done is very inspiring. Giving someone the gift of life is a remarkable thing to do, especially when the recipient isn’t a loved one.

“In the UK more than 5,000 people wait for a kidney transplant every year and many never get the organ they need, meaning that they face an uncertain future. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ we have one of the biggest living donor programmes in the country, helping more people to get the life-saving transplants that they desperately need.

“It is wonderful for us to see how patients’ lives are transformed after a transplant and we are in awe of the generous donors who make this possible.”

Last updated: April 2018

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