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Newlywed ends honeymoon needing life-saving transplant

11 March 2020

Family waved goodbye to newlyweds as they set off for a romantic honeymoon in Greece, but just weeks later, Chevonne Elbourne was critically ill in a coma in intensive care.

The young married couple say their lives changed forever, when doctors discovered Chevonne had a rare disease which meant her immune system attacked her kidneys, leaving her needing dialysis and eventually, life-saving transplant surgery.

Leo and Chevonne Elbourne
Leo and Chevonne Elbourne on their wedding day

Graphic designer Chevonne had been suffering bouts of sickness and was always tired but doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong, when she began feeling ill at the end of 2018.

“She was always fit and healthy so her illness seemed a mystery,” her husband Leo said.

“Our family waved us goodbye after a beautiful wedding ceremony and the next time some of them saw Chevonne, she was in a coma.

Married life begins in intensive care

“The first month of our wedded life was spent in intensive care. It was a really difficult time.”

In the months leading up to their wedding, Chevonne began to swell up without a known cause. After one particularly bad episode, she had difficulty breathing, so the pair went to A&E where it was discovered her kidney function had dropped to just 15 per cent. 

“She spent a few weeks in hospital where we found out she had dense deposit disease, a rare auto-immune condition where the body's immune system attacks your own kidneys,” Leo said.

“It was a real shock to us and she had to give up working straight away.

“It gave us a lot of perspective on life and what is important. It was frightening as we had no idea what the future held for us as a young couple. As Christians we have faith in God and trust in Him which has given us a lot of comfort even up until now, but the diagnosis was still scary.”

Chevonne began taking drugs to control the auto-immune condition but unfortunately the side effects made her very ill.

A month before their May 2019 wedding, after another short spell in hospital, she came off the drugs and her side effects went immediately, however, unbeknown to her, her kidneys began to fail rapidly.

Leo said: “Our wedding turned into a really big day with 300 guests in the congregation. Knowing how sick Chevonne had been, so many people wanted to celebrate with us. It was a really happy day and we were thankful she was well enough to walk down the aisle.”

However, what they had not expected was for Chevonne’s health to go downhill so rapidly.

During the honeymoon, Chevonne began swelling again and within days of their return her health became critical.

“I was awakened in the night to find Chevonne having a seizure. I rang 999 who sent an ambulance straight away,” Leo said.

“They put Chevonne into an induced coma for two days. Staff were amazing. Not only in their day to day care but also, they arranged for her to go and visit her newly born niece in another London hospital. She spent her 24th birthday in hospital too.

“The daily dialysis started and so began a totally new life, one we had not envisaged or prepared for. It was pretty miserable. In the background of all of this we knew Chevonne would eed a kidney donor.”

“Chevonne’s dad offered to be a match and in January 2020 the surgery took place. Chevonne is making a really good recovery.”

Leo Elbourne
Leo Elbourne running the Big Half Marathon in London

Running for research

In the meantime, Leo decided he wanted to do something for Kidney Research UK to support the work they do for kidney patients across the country. Leo ran the Big Half marathon in London to raise hundreds for the charity.

“I am fund raising for Kidney Research UK because it is the best hope for a normal life for people like Chevonne. Her treatment has been made possible thanks to the research in renal medicine.

“Dialysis and transplants sadly are not a permanent solution. We hope to have 10 years of normality before we have to go through this process again and look for a new organ donor. That is why research is so important.”

“We are thankful for all the incredible support and generosity from family, friends and colleagues as we have raised £2,500 so far and counting.”

Visit Leo's Virgin Money Giving page to support his fundraising.

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