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A new lease of life thanks to a life-saving transplant operation

17 February 2020

A Cambridgeshire footballer, with a new lease of life thanks to a life-saving transplant operation, is running a half marathon to raise funds into kidney disease treatment research.

Ben Baylis, 55, was down to just five per cent kidney function and had no idea he was critically ill, when an annual health check showed he was in end-stage renal failure.

A keen player of walking football, Ben faced home dialysis for 11 hours every day, potentially for the rest of his life, until a suitable organ donor match was found.

Ben Bayliss
Ben (2nd from left) with WTWFC in the FA Peoples Cup 2019 and were Cambridgeshire Regional Champions

A family history of kidney disease

“My father died of kidney disease when he was 32 and I was 9 years old, so I always knew it was likely to affect me,” said Ben, who has polycystic kidney disease.

“I was monitored once a year from that point onwards, but I wasn’t expecting to experience the ‘silent killer’ effect of kidney disease. My kidney function fell to five per cent which is critical. Average function is 60 per cent, but I barely felt any difference in my health other than being a bit more tired – I would never have known, were it not for the regular monitoring. I feel very lucky. I could have died.”

For 18 months Ben hooked himself up to his home dialysis machine every night, which required monthly deliveries of fluids and equipment, weighing half a tonne each delivery.

“It took over our spare room, it was incredible to see how much was needed to keep me alive,” said Ben.

Ben Bayliss dialysis machine
Ben's home dialysis machine for 18 months

A call out of the blue

Then, out of the blue in April 2018, he received the call saying a suitable donor had been found. “It was a Saturday afternoon of my birthday weekend. Celebrations stopped, I packed a bag and a taxi was sent to get me to Addenbrookes as quickly as possible,” he said.

A few hours later he was in theatre having transplant surgery.

“It’s a shock when you get the call but I‘d already had one false alarm and was fairly chilled about the idea. I felt strong and ready. At first, the kidney struggled to get going, but once it did, I haven’t looked back. I was home by day 12 and haven’t experienced any problems. It has been a smooth journey. Not everybody is this lucky as the body’s immune system can reject the kidney or people can get very sick.”

Ben Bayliss
Ben's birthday bowling the day he got the transplant call.

Six months after his life-saving surgery Ben was able to send a letter to the family of the deceased donor via the hospital’s anonymous communication system.

“Within four months I received a hand-written reply from the donor’s wife and it took my breath away,” Ben said. “Her husband sounded very much like me with his outlook on life. He was a keen footballer with similar interests. It’s as if you are describing the same person!

“My kidney donor has enabled me to have a much better quality of life. I feel grateful I can easily go on holiday, go out and about, live my life without the burden of dialysis. I want to give back to help others and to support future research. I know the difference it makes to people.”

Running all over kidney disease

Ben is running the Lee Valley Half Marathon on 29 March 2020 for Kidney Research UK with his family and friends. Joining him are daughters Ellie, 25, and Gemma, 29, who have kidney disease and Beth, 27, who does not. Also running are his daughter’s step-sister, Olivia Sandler, her father Rob Sandler and Daisy Matthews, Ben’s partner’s daughter. The team can be supported through their JustGiving page:

Ben is well known in the Fenland area as secretary of the Wisbech Town Walking Football Club, a player in the Northern Premier League with the Nomads and assistant manager to the Scotland Team being put together for the 2020 walking football Euro championships in Wales in July.

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