Thousands are still waiting for a transplant. Katie Baldwin hears how the ops can transform lives.
She’s a specialist nurse caring for kidney patients – and she has a unique personal insight into the disease.
For coincidentally Charlotte Trumper herself underwent a kidney transplant last year after living with ill-health for several years.
Charlotte is the acute care renal nurse specialist at St James’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary in Leeds, so she knows first-hand the effects of kidney problems.
The 44-year-old had known since the age of 18 that she had only one kidney after it was picked up during an unrelated scan.
Initially this didn’t cause her any issues, as it is possible to live with one functioning kidney, and she just attended yearly check-ups.
But around five years ago she began to feel very tired and unwell.
“I had a review and my kidney function had dropped to 15 per cent,” she said.
“I was only about a year before the transplant that I realised I was feeling quite ill.
“If I went shopping, I wouldn’t be able to last long, I would get very tired. I had to stop going to the gym, I was having palpitations and generally feeling quite poorly.”
In the few months before the transplant, Charlotte said she wasn’t well at all: “Every day was a struggle.”
She was originally under the care of medics in York, where she lives, but decided to switch her care to Leeds and was put on the waiting list for a transplant.
The day before her transplant, her kidney function had dropped so significantly that she expected to be on dialysis soon.
Luckily a donor organ came up through the organ donor register and she underwent the operation last May at the same hospital she works at.
“I don’t think you realise what a major operation it is until you have it done,” she said.
“Also the day I had my transplant, my brother-in-law died. It was a difficult period for everybody.”
Charlotte had six months off work and now feels “100 per cent better”.
“I didn’t realise how poorly I had felt until I started to feel better.”
Her work on the renal unit and her knowledge of the field had pros and cons when she was the patient, she said.
“The negatives are that I’m completely aware of the things that can go wrong,” she said.
“You’ve got to be quite psychologically strong to cope with that.”
But her experiences also brought a very positive side.
“I do have empathy with patients in that position. I absolutely understand what it feels like to be one of those patients,” she added.
Unsurprisingly, Charlotte has always promoted organ donation but her own situation means she now knows better than ever the difference a transplant can make.
“It’s an amazing thing that people do.
“It’s quite selfless when people are grieving for somebody to think about helping someone else.”
For fellow transplantee Richard Chapman, it has been 22 years since he underwent a pioneering transplant – but he feels just as passionate about expressing his gratitude.
He lost his sight in 1990 due to diabetes and then suffered kidney failure, which led to dialysis in Leeds and deteriorating health.
In 1992, he underwent the country’s first kidney and pancreas transplant, which was funded by a medical technology firm.
After his operation, he dedicated life to making more people aware of transplantation, firstly promoting his surgery among the medical profession, then the organ donor register.
Richard Chapman, patron of the St James’s Hospital Kidney Patients’ Association, continues to speak all over the area in order to thank those who helped him.
The 58-year-old, who lives near Halifax, said: “It’s been going for 22 years which is incredible when you think that I was told I had a few days to live.
“Every day I wake up and think about how lucky I am.
“I’m just so grateful for the fact that its enabled me to live a relatively normal life.”
* Richard will be manning a stall promoting organ donation in Otley on Saturday. All are welcome to come and meet him and his guide dog Chester.