‘A massive change for me to actually be able to breathe’
It’s National Organ Donation Week 2017. Here Welsh people who have undergone a lifesaving transplant talk about the effect it has had on their lives and the importance of organ donation
ON Christmas Eve 2015, while most people were busy wrapping last minute presents and making final plans for the big day, 32-year-old Kimberly Chard was preparing to undergo a life-changing double lung transplant.
Kimberly was severely ill with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition which causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with a thick, sticky mucus.
Over many years, the condition causes the lungs to become increasingly damaged and may eventu- ally stop them from working altogether.
Luckily, Kimberly’s nine-hour procedure at Harefield Hospitial on the outskirts of London was described by surgeons as a resounding success, and she eventually returned home to Cardiff to recover.
Almost two years later Kimberly, now 33, says the difference to her life has been “huge”.
“I have gone having 13 percent functionality to from lung nearnormal so it’s a massive change for me to actually be able to breathe,” she said. “I am able to go out and walk the dog and I have got back to my art.”
Fearful that the worst might happen, Kimberly and her partner Luke got married in the September, shortly before a suitable donor was found.
Kimberly said the transplant has had a knock-on effect on Luke and the rest of her family’s life.
“He was my carer beforehand, having to work full-time and still look after me and get me about,” she said. “It got to the point where I couldn’t even walk down stairs.
“So it’s a huge thing for him too because he can enjoy life now again.”
Kimberly has been able to get back to practicing her illustration and is looking forward to holding an exhibition of her work at Chester Arts Fair in November.
She received her lifesaving transplant in the same month changes were made to donation laws in Wales.
Starting on December 1, 2015, people who do not want to donate their organs are now required to formally opt out.
Liza Jane Baker has undergone two kidney transplants after she sustained chronic kidney failure resulting from an untreated childhood water infection.
The 45-year-old singer, who also goes by the stage name Liza Starlight and made appearances on The Voice earlier this year, had her first kidney transplant at the age of 20 in 1992 and her second when she was 30.
She said she’s had almost a completely clean bill of health since her second transplant, but has experienced terrible pain as a result of her illness.
“If you have been through something tough you realise then on the other end how lucky you are to have your health,” she said.
“You take it for granted until it is stripped away and then you miss it like crazy and you want it back.”
Liza was a vocal supporter of changing the law on organ donation and is pleased more people are able to benefit from transplants in Wales.
“All these people who are waiting, I am sure the change in the law is going to make such a big difference to help them have their life extended.”
She added: “Sometimes people do plan to give their body parts but it’s either stopped by family or they just don’t get around to signing the forms.”
Mother of three Lucy Hansen-Clarke, 37, donated one of her kidneys to her stepfather David Brown earlier this year.
David’s kidney function was severely affected by medication he had to take following a heart attack five years ago.
He also received a heart transplant last November.
“It’s a longer road than you are really prepared for,” Lucy said.
“I think they try and prepare you but I’m not sure if they can prepare you enough.
“It’s not an instant fix for him. He’s still not completely better and we are four months down the line after my operation.”
Lucy says she took time out of her career to care for David and to get herself fit enough to donate her kidney.
“I don’t think you realise as a donor how much it takes more than a kidney from you,” she added.
“You don’t plan for afterwards so it’s been a really big rollercoaster and I’m trying to figure out what the rest of my life is now.”
She says she’s looking forward to beginning a theatre and make-up course in September, and is enjoying good physical health following the procedure in March.
Lucy added that she would give her kidney again if she could.
“I would do it for anybody but it was also very special because it’s my stepdad.”
David, 64, said he’s looking forward to going on holiday abroad in the Canaries now he isn’t restricted by several hours of haemodialysis every day.
Kimberly Chard underwent a double lung transplant on Christmas Eve 2015. Inset, Kimberly says she is now enjoying a ‘huge’ difference to her life
Lucy Hansen-Clarke donated one of her kidneys to her stepfather David Brown
Liza Baker performs Alone by Heart on The Voice