My time will come for second transplant
My time will come when this has settled, says Kidney Research UK supporter Graham Roper, whose second transplant surgery plans were put on hold as the country went into coronavirus lockdown.
First-round tests looked promising for donation from his sister in law at the start of this year, but further tests, booked for March 2020, were postponed as NHS resources were diverted to deal with Covid-19 patients.
“I feel sorry for people who had dates for transplant operations as their hopes will have been up, only to be dashed,” Graham said. “That must be so upsetting. At least I hadn’t got that far down the line.”
My time will come once this is over
With a deeply pragmatic approach, he added: “My time will come once this is over. I am used to being a kidney patient. It was picked up when I was in my 20s. I think the current lockdown situation must be much more difficult for those newly diagnosed.”
Graham’s first transplant was in 2011 thanks to his son Matthew being a donor. However, a blood clot in 2018 damaged his kidney function, leaving him requiring dialysis at hospital three times a week.
“It was just before we were due to travel on holiday. I had a pain in my leg. My daughter, a doctor, suspected it was deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and told me to go to A&E immediately. It turned out to be a clot in my right leg in the blood vessel that feeds the kidney. My kidney function deteriorated quite rapidly after that.
“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that kidney disease doesn’t have to be the end of your life,” he said. “It just takes more organisation and effort. Kidney patients must go the extra mile to look after their wellbeing.
“I’ve learnt to manage my time and health and understand being a kidney patient can be hard at times to push through to the positives.
“As a patient rep on a renal project group at Guys Hospital in London, I see how patients suffer because it can feel like hard work. Depression is a topic that comes up time and again. Many kidney patients have other health issues, so that certainly compounds what they are going through.
“I feel very lucky as I can get around, I can drive, and I live my life as best I can.”
Graham says that planning his work around non-dialysis days helps to manage his time effectively and adds: “All my life I’ve been a do-er and a ‘yes’ man. Kidney disease has taught me that sometimes I have to say no!”
Putting his health first
When first diagnosed in his twenties, he didn’t understand the impact of kidney disease. By his 30s, when his doctor found protein in his urine, he was seen every year for tests and worked at keeping his blood pressure down, eating well and looking after himself.
However, as chairman of Berkeley Homes his life was hectic. “My consultant said ‘do you want to be a rich man in a grave or do you want to look at your health and put that first’? I decided to take early retirement to set up my own limited company and work at a slower pace.”
Around that time, Graham was advised to find a family kidney donor and while wife Wendy was keen to step forward and was a good match, her kidney function fell a fraction below the requirement for transplant success. His son Matthew came forward instead and everything went well.
“I felt quite odd for the first year after transplant, light-headed and dizzy,” he said. “I had odd reactions. I think I was reacting to the drugs. Thankfully that settled down.”
Since the DVT affected his kidney function and having to undergo dialysis, Graham says he makes sure he still enjoys holidays in Britain and abroad thanks to a specialised dialysis company, which means his options are almost endless.
“They can organise dialysis in 102 countries. Amazing! Thanks to them we have been to the South of France and California, and, closer to home, Framlingham in Suffolk.”
A non-executive director of The Salvation Army, a founder director of Berkeley Homes and a trustee with Crosslight Advice, a community charity working to provide debt advice and combat financial hardship, Graham says he enjoys the structure that working from home brings to his current social isolation. Other coping strategies include evening strolls and video link church services.
“Luckily, we live in a quiet area, so feel safe strolling out. It is good to get the fresh air. We are also enjoying video services from St Marys Church in Sevenoaks. Like many others right now we are all realising that simple pleasures are often the most important.”
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