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Milton Keynes Mayor supports Hope’s sponsored walk

15 May 2024

Hope Rusell, a 25-year-old from Milton Keynes, was born prematurely after a road traffic accident caused her mother, Maxine, to go into early labour. Just a few months later Maxine was told her newborn baby had kidney disease that would progress info full renal failure by the time she was five. Now, 25 years later, the pair are one-year post-transplant surgery and have raised almost £3,500 for Kidney Research UK through a walk just under 15 mile walk with over 60 friends and family members. 

I wanted to challenge myself

“A couple of months after the transplant I decided to challenge myself,” Hope said. “I’m able to walk and I really wanted to raise money for Kidney Research UK so it seemed like the most accessible way to do that. It was only me, Mum and my auntie to begin with but we ended up with over 60 people and three dogs. It was a great day.” 

Hope has been on medication her entire life in preparation for her inevitable transplant but the road there was both mentally and physically draining. She said: “Hospital visits are never local; they take up a whole day and the experience is never pleasant. I thought that would change post-transplant, but I still spent so much of my time there and sometimes I have to go within hours of receiving a call.”  

Daughter and mum sat next to each other
Hope with her mum, Maxine

I felt like my life was on standby

Mum Maxine has been on the journey with her daughter, ready and waiting to be her live donor. She said: “From the age of five, I've just been on standby for Hope. Because she was stable for so long – which I know is good – I had to just keep retesting to make sure I was still ok to be a donor. I felt a bit of a relief when it was time to go because we were actually going to be doing this now. I knew I could do my bit and then move on.” 

Despite knowing Maxine would be her donor and that the operation was low risk, Hope was still uneasy about her mother going into surgery. She continued: “Mum and I have a special connection now, and I’m so grateful for her, but when she had the operation I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t stop thinking ‘my mum's going to die’.” 

After a successful operation, life has started again for Hope and Maxine. Hope has had lots more energy, but the last two months have been a little trickier. After a transplant, patients have to take immunosuppressants to prevent the body attacking the donor kidney, but the suppression of the immune system also means patients are prone to picking up other illness and infections. Hope has, sadly, been relatively unwell but that didn’t deter her from walking over the length of a half marathon. 

Councillor with kidney patient Hope, at the start of the walk
Hope with the Councillor Mick Legg

Support comes in all shapes and sizes

Starting at the National Badminton Centre, waved off by Councillor Mick Legg, Mayor of Milton Keynes, the group began their half marathon around the city. They are blown away by the support from their community coming in all shapes and sizes. "We’ve had some amazing support,” Hope explains. “Not only have we received generous donations on our fundraising page, my wedding cake maker provided 60 cupcakes, my mum’s workplace MacIntyre hosted a halfway house point and provided much needed refreshments, and my foot consultant provided me with insoles for my shoes to make the walk less painful.” 

Hope shares her journey with her growing community on Instagram (hopes.kidney.journey) so people going through similar experiences don’t feel alone in their diagnosis. She said: “It’s ok to be scared because I was too. I was terrified. You are not alone, though, and there are people out there going through the same thing as you. If you've got the support around you, use that support and don't do it alone. 
She added: “I also want to thank everyone for their support both on the day and throughout my journey. Whether you have messaged online or know me in real life, I couldn’t have done it without you.” 

Helping to spread awareness

Marc Shaw, head of community, events and volunteering at Kidney Research UK said: “Hope’s walk is a brilliant display of the impact our kidney community has on those around them. There are estimated to be 23,000 people living with kidney disease in Milton Keynes alone and 7.2 million people UK-wide. We are so grateful to Hope, her family and friends for helping us spread awareness and make a positive change to kidney patients’ lives.” 

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