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“I am doing it because I CAN” – why Nicky Clifford still fundraises 25 years post-transplant by Sarah Williams

07 August 2019

Kidney transplant patient Nicky Clifford counts herself as very lucky. She has been married to Antony for 26 years, has two daughters born after her transplant, a beloved horse called Chester and family dog, Marley. This year she is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her kidney transplant and she is preparing to be strapped onto a light plane for a wing walk fundraiser.

Nicky Clifford with her family
Nicky Clifford with her family

Nicky tells her story:

“I remember I didn’t have any symptoms that would cause me to go to my doctor. The only strange thing was I was obsessed about drinking water – I could never pass a tap with getting myself a drink, and I could never have too much.

“It was in my early 20s. I had become a store detective which, it turned out, I was pretty good at it. And it was when I went for a new job and had routine medical tests that they found I had renal failure.”

This was so unexpected. But looking back, it seems that Nicky’s condition was inherited as her brother also had kidney failure, over time receiving two living donor transplants from their parents.

About a year after her diagnosis, Nicky was put on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). This meant she had an operation to put tubes permanently into her stomach lining and four times a day she had to drain the waste into a bag and refill her stomach with liquid.

“I was working at Harrods at the time, but it became quite difficult with having the tubes in under my clothing and the physical nature of the job – running after people and arresting them, so I had to stop working.

“I was about two years on CAPD. Initially I found the process easy in spite of the fluid and dietary restrictions; I wasn’t going to let the dialysis sessions get in the way of living my life. I remember doing a charity assault course event where I dialysed in the next field. But increasingly I became extremely tired, had bouts of peritonitis and eventually was unable to do anything without help.”

The best thing that happened to Nicky during that time was, in June 1993, marrying her fiancé, Antony. Hardly anyone at the wedding knew she had life-saving tubes in her under her wedding dress.

Nicky and Antony on their wedding day. Few people knew that under her dress she had dialysis tubes in her stomach
Nicky and Antony on their wedding day. Few people knew that under her dress she had dialysis tubes in her stomach

After two years on dialysis, in July 1994 Nicky received a kidney from a deceased donor – a 35-year old man who died in a motorbike accident.

“I was in hospital about a week, and I was very lucky. Not only did my body not reject the new kidney, but I was able to pass urine immediately. Today, my only restrictions are the daily immunosuppressant medication that I must take and visits to the transplant clinic every four months.”

Nicky’s health recovered so well after her life-saving transplant that she took up sport, competing and winning medals in both the British Transplant Games and the World Transplant Games, and she continues to be involved with charity fundraising, including doing a tandem skydive and abseiling 450ft down the side of Guy’s hospital in London.

“My transplant inspires me to live my life to the full, experiencing and achieving as much as I can. It was because of my transplant that I was able to have my two beautiful daughters, that I can continue my horse riding and do so much.

“I think it’s so important to raise awareness of the disease that affects so many people. There is still no cure for full renal failure; the only treatments available are dialysis or transplant. And many people think you are cured if you’ve had a transplant, but that’s simply not true.

“So, I fundraise and I try to raise awareness about kidney disease. Also, significantly for me, I want people to be aware of the importance of organ donation – just how lives can be saved, like mine was.”

To celebrate her 25th kidney-versary, Nicky is doing a wing walk on a light aircraft at Headcorn Airfield in Kent, fundraising for Kidney Research UK and Transplant Sport. She’s also committed herself to signing up 25 new organ donors.

To find out more about why she’s doing this, visit her fundraising page.

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