I only started to understand the challenges associated with dialysis after chatting to Tash while she was on her thrice weekly treatments, which usually lasted eight long hours. She was about to switch to dialysing nightly with a blunt needle to free up her days, so that life would be “normal”!
After kidney failure at a young age, her mom had selflessly given one of hers. That lasted into her teenage years, when she was forced to have another transplant.
All went well after that until pregnancy put a massive strain on her tiny body, her growth stunted from all the associated side-effects of the transplants and medication. The kidney survived and Mia was born. But now came a choice that people like you and me don’t even think about, let alone have to make: a brother for Mia and the risk of kidney failure or settling for only one child.
They weighed up the consequences and took the risk. Max was born, but the kidney, already under strain from the first pregnancy didn’t make it and so it was back to dialysis. I watched Richard’s commitment to his wife. It challenged me. Was I a wimp to feel queasy about the thought of putting a needle into my wife’s arm three times a week? Could I even have married someone where such demands would be made upon me?
But now several years later, there was a risk. “Your heart is under enormous strain when on dialysis,” Tash recounted the words her doctor had told her. “This in turn reduces your life expectancy.”
Watching Mia and Max playing, thinking of them losing their mom, sent shivers down my spine. But what was the solution? They had found a suitable donor, only to find she herself, had only one good kidney! The only person in the family who was a match, had already done the selfless deed. And the exorbitantly priced desensitisation programme, so that any kidney could be implanted, had been rejected by the NHS. Twice!
The call came one evening. “We have a match!” However, there was a catch! It was to be a three-way swop. For Tash to get a kidney, her husband, Richard would have to donate his. His recipient’s partner would in turn donate to a couple, who would donate to Tash. Complicated but at least hope!
“If anything goes wrong with one of the other couples, we will wake you up and give you the option of pulling out.” They had told Richard.
“No need to.” He replied. His mind had been made up a long time ago. His decision to lay down his life for his wife was not a spur of the moment decision. It was part of his value system, part of what had been instilled in him from a young age. There would be no turning back. Even if his wife was to receive no kidney, he would not rob some other man’s wife of a dialysis free life. He knew the challenges he had been through, and God knows, there would be another kidney, sometime, somewhere, God was big enough.
Plan A came to pass, no need for Plan B, Tash got her kidney and six months down the line, Richard has learned to live with one kidney, his body has adjusted and Tash has no more dialysis. Two great kids can look forward to a normal life, but where would they be without the unparalleled commitment of their father?