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Bristol resident who was always “the healthy one” recalls shock kidney diagnosis

09 March 2023

Ninon Fougerit was just 28 years old when she discovered she had kidney disease. The French-born Bristol resident was always seen as “the healthy one” amongst her friendship group, exercising, eating healthy and never smoking – she could not imagine she would have to live with a chronic condition.

Female on a walking trip with lake and mountains in the background.
Ninon was always one for adventure before her shock diagnosis

No obvious signs

She had her first blood test in France which showed no worrying signs, but after she moved to the UK, results of a routine blood test returned with a letter recommending her to see a kidney specialist. The waiting list was long and Ninon believed that if it was something serious, the GP would have called her in. She didn’t realise that she had already lost half of her kidney function or that it was set to decline even further.

Ninon said: “About a year ago I started to feel much worse and knew that something wasn’t quite right. I was constantly tired, had heavy breathing and my skin was itchy but I had just assumed that I was just unfit. I eventually ended up in A&E to find that my kidney function was really low. The doctors told me that within a year, I would be going into kidney failure. It all just felt surreal and I think I spent a few months being in shock. I even thought about getting a second opinion.”

Understanding diagnosis

Ninon spoke to a kidney specialist who helped her to understand her diagnosis and the next steps on her kidney journey: dialysis or transplantation were her options as her kidney disease progressed. Keen to avoid dialysis, she is instead focussing on transplantation as her preferred option.

Ninon continued, “My plan is to have a live transplant from my dad in July. As long as my kidney function remains stable, it should mean that I avoid having to go on dialysis which I really do not want to have to have. It all feels really weird that I’m in this position, I have focused a lot on what I eat and being healthy and my friends used to make fun of me because I never used to eat junk food or anything. I’d encourage anyone, no matter how healthy they think they are, to get their kidneys checked. It is a chronic disease, but progression can be slowed. Once you are in renal failure, that’s when the real problems begin.”

Support for patients

Kidney Research UK estimates that of the 3.5 million people currently living with kidney disease in the UK; around 239,930 in the South West of England are registered as having kidney disease. This World Kidney Day, the charity has developed a dedicated Kidney Kit to help those at the first stage of their kidney disease journey. The kit is designed to help newly diagnosed kidney patients get to grip with their disease and overall kidney health.

Backed by Kidney Research UK experts, the kit provides information on nutrition and exercise including specific kidney recipes as well as tips and support from the kidney community on living with kidney disease.

Sandra Currie, chief executive at Kidney Research UK said: “Ninon’s story is unfortunately one that occurs far too often. Even seemingly healthy people can fall seriously ill after living with kidney disease for many years. When patients start their kidney journey it can be difficult to get to grips with their diagnosis and overall kidney health. Working with experts, we have been able to develop a dedicated kidney kit to help guide new patients on the early steps of their kidney journey.”

Ninon laying in hospital bed wearing a mask
Ninon in hospital following her diagnosis of kidney disease

Read more about people living with kidney disease

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