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The pen pal love story that defied kidney failure, coronavirus, two continents and 4,600 miles!

04 March 2021

A young London couple defied a pandemic and 4,600 miles to be together when acute kidney failure from a rare auto-immune disease plunged them into a world of hospital treatment and an unknown future.

Atasi Ghosh and Alex Taylor had been penpals for over a year, thanks to a matchmaking mutual friend, when they met in person for the first time in October 2019 while Atasi was holidaying in London.

They got on so well that Atasi returned to the capital two months later so the couple could spend Christmas together.

Atasi Ghosh and Alex Taylor
Atasi Ghosh and Alex Taylor

Meanwhile, Alex made plans to visit her family in India in early 2020. However, that is the point when Alex fell seriously ill.

The pair felt so strongly they were destined to be together, that they agreed they would do whatever it took to face kidney failure as a couple.

Against the odds, Atasi battled to get her visa completed as quickly as possible, left her job as a lawyer in India, and flew to London to be by Alex’s side.

Alex was a healthy 27-year old civil servant when he fell seriously ill at the start of the pandemic with a cough, severe nausea, and fever.

Initially thought to be Covid-19, in hospital he received the shock diagnosis of Goodpasture’s Syndrome, a rare but aggressive condition where the body’s immune system attacks and damages the lining of small blood vessels in the kidneys and lungs.

From healthy to kidney failure in four weeks

“We have since learned it typically strikes down young Caucasian men in their 20s and can lead to very sudden kidney failure in four to six weeks. It was such a shock.

“He went from a healthy guy to a kidney function of just two per cent. He was told it was a miracle he was still alive.

“Alex says he would choose being ill with kidney disease with me in his life, over the time when he was healthy but did not have me in his life. I feel the same,” Atasi said.

“We were meant to be, so whatever it takes we will get through this together.

“The support of the Kidney Research UK website, reading the stories, looking up the advice including the Kidney Beam exercises for dialysis patients, seeing others go through similar journeys has been so helpful.

“I need to say a massive thank you to everyone. There is something very comforting knowing we are not alone.”

To pay back the kindness, Atasi has been raising money for Kidney Research UK by walking 12,000 steps a day to help fund vital research.

Their world became very different when Alex, who lives in London, prepared to travel to India for a holiday to meet Atasi’s family. Out of the blue, he became really sick.

Meanwhile, Atasi was in Calcutta in India where she worked as a barrister after graduating from Cambridge University in 2015.

Atasi and Alex at their London home

Stuck in India while Alex was seriously ill

“The frustration knowing Alex was being rushed to A&E while I was stuck in India because the borders were locked down was awful. There were no flights and no way I could get a visa that quickly.”

She waited anxiously for news as Alex was put on emergency dialysis and his life changed beyond recognition.

Atasi couldn’t bear being apart. She was finally able to travel to the UK in October 2020 to be by Alex’s side after months waiting for her visa to be processed.

Alex has been told it is likely that he will need multiple transplants in his lifetime. He has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy while undergoing the transplant evaluation process and knows he cannot have a transplant until his heart issues are under control.

Atasi and Alex with their matchmaking friend Gabriella

Gabriella knew we were a perfect match!

Meanwhile, he has dialysis in hospital three days a week and hopes to start home dialysis soon.

Fatigue is a real issue, either from dialysis or from not sleeping properly from restless legs and arms

Additionally, he has a very active metabolism, so dialysis is less effective in reducing the toxins in his blood, but like most kidney patients, because Alex doesn’t look ill, many people don’t understand what he is going through.

“Someday all of this will be fine!” Atasi said.

“We have learnt to take one day at a time and cherish our time. We never stress over little things and appreciate everything.

“I smile when I think of our mutual friend Gabriella who set us up.

"She had to really push to get us to be pen pals in the first place. She kept saying we would be great for each other. Turns out she was right!”

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