i pulled during dialysis!
michelle commons, 37, from Leighon-sea, hated having dialysis sessions. But there was one surprising consolation
Knowing someone else in the same boat made me feel normal
Hurrying along the corridor, I glanced down at my watch. 5.30pm.
No! I thought. He’s probably left already. But as I rushed into the Dialysis unit at Basildon University Hospital, my heart did a little skip.
He’s still here!
I didn’t know his name, but I knew every tattoo on the muscular forearms of the buff, bearded guy who was now pulling his coat on to leave.
For a second, our eyes met, and Mr Hottie gave a nod, which I returned. Our way of acknowledging what we were both going through.
We were both dialysis patients, and three times a week we’d both come to the unit for treatment.
Aged 3, I’d been diagnosed with diabetes. And so had started a life of insulin injections and bloodsugar monitoring.
Over the years, I’d got used to it, managing to live a normal life. But then in March 2011, aged just 30, I’d suffered a heart attack.
‘A complication of diabetes,’ my doctor explained to me.
I’d been put on medication, and I was monitored regularly, but
I’d had two more heart attacks over the next four years. I had a quadruple bypass in June 2015. It had saved my life. But in November 2016, came more bad news… ‘The medication has damaged your kidneys and pancreas,’ a specialist had explained to me.
My kidney function had dropped to just five per cent.
My only hope of survival? Dialysis and a double organ transplant.
So while my mates were finding love, starting families or having fun, I’d been hooked to a dialysis machine at home.
But even that was fraught with problems, as I’d kept getting infections.
So now, three nights every week after I finished work in a recruitment agency, I had to go to the hospital for dialysis.
But when I went for my first session in May 2017, there was one consolation. Mr Hottie! He’d been leaving just as I arrived, and smiled as I held the door open for him.
With rippling muscles and tattoos snaking up his arms and neck, he was sex on legs!
‘And he’s having dialysis, too,’ I realised.
All the other people in the waiting room were elderly. Knowing that someone else my age was in the same boat as me made me feel more normal.
Over time, our nods became hellos.
Then, one day in September 2017, Mr Hottie was still in the waiting room when I arrived.
I don’t remember who broke the ice, but as we chatted I discovered that his name was Steve Jarvis.
‘So you’re waiting for a transplant, too?’ he asked. ‘Afraid so,’ I nodded. We quickly realised we had loads in common.
Like me, Steve, 33, lived in Essex. He also had type 1 diabetes. Sight problems meant he’d had to give up his van-driving job. Also like me, he needed a kidney and pancreas transplant.
‘It’s nice to meet someone who understands,’ I smiled. ‘My family and friends are amazing, but you’re living the same life as me.’
He nodded in agreement. Next time I saw him in the waiting room, he suggested setting up a Whatsapp group for all the dialysis patients.
‘Great idea!’ I grinned, giving Steve my phone number
Kissing in the rain...it was like a scene from a slushy film
before he headed off.
Then, as my dialysis session began, my phone bleeped. Hey, it’s Steve…
‘That was quick!’ I thought. We messaged for the entire three hours of my treatment – about our lives, our illness.
The next day, I got butterflies when Steve asked if he could sit with me during my dialysis, even though his treatment had finished.
‘Of course,’ I smiled.
The nurses thought it was adorable!
From then on, we’d chat non-stop at hospital and message constantly while we were apart.
‘I’d love a night out that didn’t involve injections and hospital vending machines,’ I sighed in December 2017.
‘I’d like to take you to my favourite Italian restaurant,’ he smiled shyly.
‘Yes, please,’ I grinned. Days later, I slipped into my slinkiest black dress and made my way to La Romantica restaurant in Rayleigh, Essex.
Steve was waiting in a smart shirt and jeans.
‘You look amazing,’ he said. No hospital gowns in sight! The candlelit table and romantic music were worlds away from the Dialysis ward.
‘I asked the nurses if you were single when I first saw you,’ Steve blushed.
‘Well, I fancied you at first sight, too,’ I giggled.
‘But you never did set up that Whatsapp group!’
‘It was a ploy to get your number,’ he sniggered. The smoothie! Kissing in the rain after our meal, it was like a scene from a slushy film.
From that moment, we were a couple. Steve lived with his parents near my flat in Rayleigh but spent most nights at mine.
And everyone at the hospital realised what was going on when Steve switched to evening dialysis sessions. Although some had already guessed…
‘We saw you snogging outside the ward weeks ago,’ one nurse laughed. Busted! Soon, we took another step. ‘Why don’t you move in with me?’ I said in January 2018.
Yes, it was quick. But we were so happy.
In March 2018, Steve got a call from the hospital. A donor match had been found for him – but our hopes were dashed when the organs were deemed unsuitable.
We’d both had one false alarm each already.
‘This is an emotional rollercoaster,’ I said tearfully. ‘Stay positive,’ Steve soothed. Sure enough, on 30 April 2018, the hospital called. They’d found me a match.
‘Let’s get you there,’ Steve grinned. We raced to Guy’s Hospital in London.
It was all a blur, but Steve stayed with me until the last moment, as I was wheeled to theatre for a double transplant.
Thankfully, the nine-hour operation was a success.
‘You made it,’ Steve grinned, not leaving my bedside.
Back home after six days, I felt so lucky. But my heart ached for the donor’s grieving family. Their loss had saved me.
On 16 May 2018 Steve got his call, too. I felt gutted that I was too fragile to accompany him to hospital.
‘You’ll be with me in spirit,’ he smiled.
His family sent me updates during his 10-hour double transplant at Guy’s Hospital.
Worryingly, he suffered breathing complications and was hooked to a ventilator.
I was desperate to be there – and the next day, I made it.
‘I can’t bear the thought of losing him,’ I wept, seeing Mr Hottie lying there, vulnerable.
Thankfully, Steve slowly improved and was allowed home after eight days.
Since then, we both feel great and are free from diabetes, which means we have loads more energy and no longer need insulin injections.
We’re so grateful to our donors and their families.
And our doctors were amazed – they’ve never done transplants on a couple before.
Now Steve and I are like any other couple. Enjoying nights out, planning our future.
When we were both ill, we never thought we’d find romance. But we met needing new kidneys and ended up stealing each other’s hearts.
My hospital hottie!
Steve in Guy’s Hospital after his surgery
I had my transplant there, too
Me and Mr Hottie!
A cheeky snap in the Dialysis unit!