Life after a kidney transplant

Thursday 14 March 2013

Peter Hill with his wife Angela

Peter Hill was diagnosed with kidney disease at 33. Over the next 30 years, his kidneys gradually got worse and eventually failed. Peter started haemodialysis and went on the transplant list.

In December 2010, after 3.5 years of haemodialysis, Peter got the call he’d been waiting for – a kidney from a deceased donor was available that matched his blood and tissue type. It was 3pm and his wife Angela was out shopping. With just an hour to get to Guy’s Hospital, Peter quickly locked up the house, got on the bus, and then rang Angela on the way.

“The call was a complete surprise. You gear yourself up for that moment, but even though you’ve thought about it and heard others talk about it you don’t really know how it feels until it happens. I was excited, apprehensive, all sorts of things at once.”

Angela and Alex (one of their two sons) arrived at 7pm, just in time to see Peter before he was wheeled from the ward into theatre for surgery.

After the operation

After recovering from surgery, Peter soon noticed the difference his new kidney made.

“It came as a bit of a shock to be well again, and it took time to readjust. Before the transplant life was controlled by the dialysis machine, and suddenly there’s brain capacity to think about everything else in your life. It’s exciting, but also scary for the first 6 months in case your body rejects the kidney.”

There’s been a big impact on Peter’s family life as he no longer has to plan trips and visits around haemodialysis. “I can spontaneously visit friends and family and see my grandchildren – things are much more relaxed.”

Peter can also eat and drink differently now. Most people on haemodialysis can only drink up to 1 litre a day (compared with normal recommended average of 3 litres per day), because the dialysis machine can only remove 3 litres of water in a session, and sessions are usually 2-3 days apart. “In summer you’re always thirsty.”

Peter’s donor

Peter will never know who his donor was; all he knows is that she was a 38 year old woman.

A year after the transplant, Peter wrote a letter to her family, thanking them for allowing the donation to go ahead.

“Everyone who is involved is brilliant. The people who donate are amazing, and so are their families to give consent during their time of grief. The staff who can ask such a hard question with sensitivity at that moment are heroic.”

Talk about donation

Many people who are registered on the donor register haven’t discussed their wishes with their family. This greatly reduces the likelihood of their family giving consent if the situation arises.

90% of families consent to donation if their loved one discussed their wish – only 40% will if they haven’t.

“People have to talk about it,” says Peter. “If more people spoke to their family about what they wanted to do, then there’d be a lot more transplants and a lot fewer deaths.”

To find out more about organ donation visit Guy’s main reception 9am-3pm on Thurs 14 March, where staff and patients are running an information stand to support World Kidney Day.

Last updated: March 2013

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