A walk of thanks following a successful transplant
Having recently had her one-year kidneyversary, Hannah Aarons, 49, can think of no better way to celebrate it than doing the London Bridges Walk to raise money for kidney research.
Hannah and her “wonderfully supportive’ family are no strangers to the event, as she did the seven mile walk in 2019 with her husband Phillip and children Joshua, 18 and Poppy 16.
An extra special walk
But taking part this year feels extra special given that Hannah, who’s raised over £500 already, is one year on from the life-changing kidney transplant that has improved her life immeasurably.
“I just wanted to celebrate and what better way to do it than the walk,” she says. “I want to raise some money and say thank you as I'm just forever grateful to my donor and for the research that’s being done to help dialysis patients.”
Hannah, from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, only found out she had polycystic kidney disease while going through tests to see if she could donate a kidney to her dad.
She says, “My dad was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease when he was in his 40s. I was still at school when he was diagnosed and grew up with him on dialysis. He managed to get a transplant after about three years, but it failed pretty much straightaway. And then he carried on with dialysis for another 17 years after that before having another transplant in 2007, which was successful.”
A shock diagnosis
Hannah explains that seeing her dad suffer for so long meant that as soon as she had her children, she was keen to help him out. “When I was 33, four months after I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to try and donate a kidney to dad. So they started doing all the tests and I was a really good match. But then we went for a scan just to see that everything was okay and the doctor turned round and said ‘I’m really sorry but you’ve got cysts on your kidneys and you can’t donate’.”
Despite her shock over being diagnosed, Hannah said that growing up with a parent on dialysis meant she wasn’t too phased by the news. “I was lucky because I knew a lot about it. And I think that was a really good thing.”
She says, “I was fine to start with and then you start getting a bit tired but I can't say it was terrible. But my body was changing and I looked pregnant because my kidneys had grown so much. I was very big and felt uncomfortable.
“The doctors explained that if I got a call to say there was a donor match for me, I wouldn’t be able to have a transplant at that point as my kidneys were so big that they wouldn’t be able to fit another one in. They usually leave your own kidneys in when you have a transplant and just add another one but this wasn’t going to be possible for me. So when I was 42 they took them out to make room and I started dialysis.”
Fortunately, Hannah coped really well with dialysis at first but admits that it started to take its toll eventually. “You just try and get on with it. But I think more and more over the years it does affect how you feel. I was getting to a point where I was just thinking, ‘It's been six years. When is this going to end now?’”
Getting the call!
When she did finally get the call to say she had a donor, Hannah was terrified she’d missed her chance after she noticed three missed calls on her phone. She says, “When you’re on the transplant list you’re told to keep your phone on all the time. I was always really good at keeping my phone with me and leaving it on. And then one morning I woke up and my phone had been off overnight and I had three missed calls from the hospital.”
She continues, “I just came over in a hot sweat. My husband was downstairs and I ran down the stairs and said, ‘Oh my god I’ve missed three calls’. I thought I’d missed my chance. It was like winning the lottery and realising you’ve lost your ticket.”
Fortunately for Hannah – who helps her husband run his osteopathy practice – the hospital called back again and hours later, she was in surgery having her transplant.
“It was the best day ever”, she tells us. ‘I’m feeling great one year on and even though my dad had his transplant 16 years ago, his kidneyversary falls in the same month as mine, so we recently had a wonderful family party to celebrate. Doing the London Bridges Walk with my family is my way of saying thank you to kidney research and thank you to my donor as I wouldn’t be here without them.”
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