Proudly walking with #TeamKidney
Last weekend, Sakshi Dewan proudly joined hundreds of participants taking part in the Kidney Research UK London Bridges Walk. The 38-year-old mum of two was inspired to sign up to the event after developing a kidney condition.
When she was pregnant with her second child, Maya, now nine months, Sakshi developed pre-eclampsia, which affected her kidney function. She spent weeks in hospital, and after the birth her function did not return to normal as expected.
Wanting answers to tests
Sakshi, who works at Meta and lives in Barnes, says, “When I was 25 weeks, my blood pressure was a bit high, and there was protein in my urine. It continued to go up so at 29 weeks I went to Kingston Hospital for more tests.
“Suddenly, it got quite serious. The consultant told me I had pre-eclampsia and it was impacting my kidneys. They couldn’t let me go home. They took really good care of me but what I really struggled with was that no one had any answers except, ‘This happens to some women.’”
Sakshi stayed in hospital where her blood pressure and kidney function was monitored daily. She was told it was likely the problem would resolve itself after the birth. At 33 weeks, they decided to deliver the baby by an emergency C-section.
“Thankfully, my baby was fine,” she says. “She was born completely healthy and is thriving. I was kept in a few days and initially, my blood pressure and creatinine levels went down. But then they went back up, and I was told it could take three months to be fully back to normal.
A difficult time
“Those were the three most difficult months of my life. I’d gone from being healthy to confronting impaired kidney function. It was hard for me as a layman to understand that it can be life-changing and people do die from it.
“I constantly worried about whether I’d have face kidney failure and go on dialysis or have a transplant, to the point that I couldn’t enjoy life with my new baby girl.”
To allay her fears, Sakshi went to see a private renal specialist. While in hospital it had been suggested she may have a pre-existing condition, although she had not had issues with the birth of her first child Meera.
“He was able to pull up my pre-pregnancy blood tests, which showed there was no pre-existing condition,” she says. “He told me some women do get pre-eclampsia and suffer permanent damage to their kidneys, which no one had explained before.
“It was a relief to know the full picture. However, the specialist was also reassuring. His assessment was that it was a one-off episode of damage and while I might have chronic kidney disease (CKD), it was not something that would get progressively worse and I could live with it.”
Focusing on the positives
Sakshi’s husband Udayan, 38, has been very supportive, and accompanied her to the specialist appointment. “He focuses on the positives and stops me catastrophising!” she says.
She also turned to the internet to find out more and came across Kidney Research UK and read about our work. It inspired her to take part in the London Bridges Walk.
“I thought the least I could do was to fundraise and raise awareness about kidney disease. There are misconceptions it’s a lifestyle disease or it’s just old people who get it, or people with diabetes.
Walking in memory of someone special
“I’d first heard of the London Bridges Walk back in 2015, when my father was diagnosed with CKD, possibly caused by long-term medication for arthritis. He died last year, not from kidney issues, but when I walked through the streets of London last weekend I was thinking of him. It was very emotional. My husband and children came to support me and it was a great event to take part in.
“My father was on painkillers for two decades, and no one did any checks. In the end, he was stable, but he had to live with that for the rest of his life. Now I’ve found out that the South Asian community is more at risk of kidney issues generally, but how many people think of getting their kidney function tested?”
Happily, Sakshi has recently had some good news about her health, as her latest kidney results are normal and medics are slowly reducing her blood pressure medication.
Now, she says she is trying to be optimistic about the future. She says, “I may be more vulnerable than the average woman, but the best thing to come out of this is that I’m not going to take my body for granted. I’m exercising more.
“But one thing I’ve also learned is that we put a lot of onus on people to look after themselves without supporting them psychologically. It’s easy for a doctor to say, ‘Well, you need to lose five kilos.’ But you can be depressed when you are dealing with a diagnosis.”
She adds, “The first thing is to help people accept that mentally, and then problem-solve. My journey was first denial and then anger about why it was happening to me, and then looking for answers and others who have been through this. And then accepting it, and letting go what I can’t control.”
Finally, Sakshi says that she hopes taking part in the walk will be a springboard to meeting others with kidney conditions. She says, “I’m hoping through Kidney Research UK to meet other people, hear other stories. That was my other big issue - no one could relate to what I was going through.”