From Face­book friend to LIFE­SAVER ‘Happy to help!’

I can never re­pay Ali’s won­der­ful gen­eros­ity A li says, ‘I met So­nia back in 2010 when I was a stu­dent. She was so kind and such a great teacher that, when I saw the Face­book post, I wanted to help. When I found out we were the same blood and tis­sue grou

Chat - - True-life - By So­nia Leonardo, 42, from Lon­don

Iwas 25 and liv­ing in my na­tive Por­tu­gal when I started suf­fer­ing from high blood pres­sure.

Tests re­vealed cysts around my kid­ney, and I was di­ag­nosed with poly­cys­tic kid­ney dis­ease (PKD).

Turns out my twin sis­ter and I were born with the con­di­tion.

There was no treat­ment, so I was given tablets to lower my blood pres­sure and told to carry on with my life as nor­mal.

Nine years later, in 2008, I came to the UK to start my job as a ra­dio­g­ra­pher.

My re­nal care was moved to Lon­don’s Chelsea and West­min­ster Hospi­tal – where, a year later, tests showed things weren’t good.

‘Your kid­neys are func­tion­ing at 40 per cent,’ the doc­tor ex­plained. ‘You’re in kid­ney fail­ure.’ So I was booked in for mon­i­tor­ing ap­point­ments every six months, and told to drink lots of wa­ter and cut my salt in­take. Thank­fully, it didn’t stop me work­ing as a ra­dio­g­ra­pher.

But, in June 2015, my kid­ney func­tion dropped to just 15 per cent.

‘We’re putting you on the trans­plant list,’ my doc­tor told me.

‘Re­ally?’ I asked. ‘I don’t have any symp­toms.’

But my kid­neys weren’t re­mov­ing waste from my blood as they should. And, a year later, I was told I needed to start dial­y­sis, as my kid­ney func­tion had plunged to nine per cent.

So, last De­cem­ber, I was trained to ad­min­is­ter peri­toneal dial­y­sis to my­self at home three times a day, through a tube in my bowel.

Un­for­tu­nately, no other fam­ily or friends could do­nate, but they all ral­lied round.

My house was like a florist’s with all the beau­ti­ful bou­quets peo­ple had sent to cheer me up.

As al­ways, my sis­ter was a great sup­port.

‘I’ll put a post on Face­book thank­ing ev­ery­one’ she said.

‘OK,’ I agreed. ‘But don’t men­tion what’s wrong. I don’t want ev­ery­one know­ing.’

Not long af­ter, I had a pri­vate Face­book mes­sage from Ali Go­lian. He’d been one of my ra­di­og­ra­phy stu­dents at King’s Col­lege Hospi­tal back in 2010.

What’s go­ing on? he wrote. Are you OK?

Af­ter his course, Ali had got a job in an­other depart­ment at the hospi­tal, so I’d still bump into him, and we’d stop for a chat. But then he’d changed jobs, and we’d lost touch.

It’d been around five years since we’d last spo­ken.

But Ali, now 30, had seen

My kid­ney func­tion had plunged to just nine per cent

my sis­ter’s post. And I was touched by his con­cern.

I’ve got kid­ney fail­ure. I’m hav­ing dial­y­sis while wait­ing for a trans­plant, I ex­plained.

He asked what blood type I was, and I told him, think­ing noth­ing of it.

Turned out we were both type O. But then… I’ll see if I’m a match, he wrote. No! I replied, in­stantly. You’re too young. You don’t need to do this.

I was shocked, and also very touched – but I hardly knew Ali. So I mes­saged again, thank­ing him, and urg­ing him not to get tested. But Ali was per­sis­tent! We need to talk be­fore you do any­thing, I told him, giv­ing him the con­tact de­tails for the liv­ing trans­plant co-or­di­na­tor.

I didn’t think he’d be a match. But, if he was, I needed to make sure he was aware of the phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of los­ing a kid­ney.

‘Please be 100 per cent sure about what you’re do­ing,’ I begged, when I rang him days later. ‘It’s a re­ally big op­er­a­tion.’

I even met up with him at the hospi­tal to dis­cuss it. But Ali never once wa­vered. In­stead, he started hav­ing the tests re­quired to see if he was a match.

In­cred­i­bly, he was! I broke down in tears when I found out.

We were in­ter­viewed by an in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sor to make sure ev­ery­one was happy with the ar­range­ment.

Then the op­er­a­tion was planned for May this year.

Be­fore­hand, Ali and I went out for din­ner with friends.

‘Why did you de­cide to do this?’ one asked him.

‘Many years ago, when I was a stu­dent, So­nia was very kind to me,’ he ex­plained. ‘I’m do­ing it be­cause it’s So­nia. I wouldn’t do it for just any­one.’

‘But I was just do­ing my job!’ I smiled.

By now, my kid­ney func­tion had de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther, so I was hav­ing dial­y­sis five times a day.

It im­pacted on both my work and so­cial life, and was pain­ful.

The trans­plant couldn’t come soon enough for me.

On 30 May this year, Ali and I were both ad­mit­ted to Guy’s Hospi­tal.

At 8.30am, Ali came to say good­bye to me be­fore be­ing taken down to the­atre. I broke down, ter­ri­fied. ‘You told me to be strong!’ Ali re­as­sured me. ‘Ev­ery­thing will be fine.’

In the­atre, Ali had key­hole surgery to re­move his left kid­ney. Then the sur­geons at­tached it to my right side, in front of my ex­ist­ing kid­ney.

When I awoke a few hours later, I looked across the room and saw Ali in the other bed. ‘Are you OK?’ he asked. ‘Yes, but sleepy,’ I replied, still groggy from the anaes­thetic.

‘The op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess, and the kid­ney is start­ing to work al­ready,’ a nurse said. It was such a relief. We were both dis­charged a week later.

Dur­ing that time, we’d spent hours talk­ing every day.

Then, seven weeks af­ter the surgery, Ali re­turned to his su­per­in­ten­dent ra­dio­g­ra­pher job, And, af­ter three months, I went back to mine.

I’ll have to take im­mune sup­pres­sants for the rest of my life, so my body doesn’t re­ject the kid­ney – and I’m more prone to in­fec­tions. But, apart from that, I’m fine.

Af­ter seven months of dial­y­sis, it’s such a relief not to have to do it any more.

I have so much more en­ergy, and feel like a dif­fer­ent per­son.

Words re­ally can’t ex­press how grate­ful I am to Ali. He’s so much more than a friend – he’s like a brother.

I’ve nick­named his kid­ney ‘mini Ali’, and will be for­ever grate­ful for his un­be­liev­ably gen­er­ous gift.

Words re­ally can’t ex­press how grate­ful I am to Ali

A lit­tle treat But brave Ali gave me a very big gift

My sis­ter, Ali and me, three months af­ter the trans­plant

Ali’s be­come like a brother to me!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.